Alpana (name changed), 6, is badly malnourished. With emaciated legs and a bloated belly, she often finds it hard to walk and needs support every time she gets nature’s call. Her dry skin and frequent coughing are contagious, but her friends are unaware of the consequences and can be seen cuddling and adoring her all the time.
Alpana is a new-comer at the government child shelter home on Prag Narayan Road. Despite her illness, she has been accommodated with normal children, who not only share the bed and belongings but are together throughout the day.
Patients of mental retardation, polio and epilepsy also live in the same shelter home. Two children are blind, another two are confined to bed and can not even take care of their toilet needs. Mood swings are common among mentally retarded children and their conflicts with normal children are also routine.
There are provisions of separate shelter for disabled children. But for the past year, these children are being made to live with normal children sans any special care and training, as the only home meant for special children began to burst at the seams and refused to take more children. However, there may be hope yet, if files continue to move uninterrupted.
“The state government has agreed to revise the age of admission in shelter homes accommodating special children in Bareilly and Gorakhpur. The centres that had been accommodating special children between 10-18 years of age will now accommodate children from 0-18 years,” said Vinod Chandra, member child welfare committee, quoting the orders of May 31.
Till now, Drishti Samajik Sansthan, an NGO, was the only organisation in the state that had been accommodating special children from 0-18 years, after the state government agreed to pay Rs 2,250 per child per month in 2011. But the sansthan is already full to its capacity of 55.
Founder of Drishti Neeta Bahadur said, “Accommodating special children is not easy. Their food, medicine and nursing are expensive. With change in government’s policies and frequent change of officials, it has been tough managing the centre.” “We are simply clueless when we get such children from garbage dumps, roads and hospitals. When parents shun these children for their disabilities, it is the duty of the state to save their lives. But it lacks the resources,” she added.
Sources said that more than 60 disabled children were living at government shelter homes in Lucknow which had no provisions to care for them.