School turned into home for criminals

  • Ayesha Arvind, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: May 30, 2015 01:14 IST

A playground, a lush green lawn and a building housing 165 children at Matunga. While this may sound like the description of a hostel where students get enrolled for a better future, the reality is far from rosy.

The building which stands on a seven-acre plot is a makeshift correction home – a place which is expected to give hope of a better life to children who have committed murder, robbery and other such crimes. But the recent death of a 17-year-old because of the alleged assault by inmates only raises some harsh questions and doubts over what the outcome for most inmates is likely to be.

The Children’s Aid Society’s David Sassoon Industrial School (DSIS) is, in fact, a school for children with special needs. In October 2014, 63 juvenile delinquents from the correction facility at Dongri were moved to the school, adding to its struggle with insufficient funds, inadequate staff strength and neglect from government authorities.

“The 63 children were to stay with us for 20 days, as the Dongri facility was under repair. We were not given any intimation. After seven months, too, they are yet to be sent back. While the state pays us Rs630 a child every month, it is not enough, as we spend Rs2,300 a month on each child,” said an official, requesting anonymity.

The juvenile delinquents are housed in the main building, while the 102 children enrolled with the school for special care live in the annexe building.

Not just the school and its students, the paucity of funds is also likely to affect the investigation into the death of the 17-year-old, as the school hasn’t been able to fix the dysfunctional closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs) installed on each floor of the building. The authorities are clueless about when they stopped working. Superintendent Tusshar Bhilvaker said, “They have not been working for a while.”

The school also needs more guards. “While 22 posts have been sanctioned, we have only 18 guards working in three shifts,” an officer said. So, effectively, during any shift the school has only six guards to man the gates, three floors in each of the two buildings, playground, and the rest of the seven-acre area.

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