No Inspection, Unutilised Funds: The State has Failed its Child Shelter Homes
Though the central government has no direct role it provides much of the funds—under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme—and therefore, has a supervisory role over the overall working of the homes, which include observation home, special home, place of safety, specialised adoption agency and open shelter.
Image for representation only. News18 creatives/Mir Suhail
New Delhi: The sordid saga of sexual exploitation of minors at the Muzaffarpur and Deoria shelter homes sent the state and public into a frenzy. These ghastly incidents prompted Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi to order a social audit of over 9,000 childcare institutions across the country, the report of which is to be submitted to the ministry within 60 days.
A couple of days back, she could be seen lamenting the lack of any such audit before. “It’s not only frightening, it makes me sad… For years and years, we have paid no attention, apart from giving them money," she was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
#WATCH: Union Minister Maneka Gandhi says, "Yeh jo Muzaffarpur aur Deoria main hua hai, ussey hum log chakit bhi hain aur dukhi bhi. Aur mujhe maloom hai ki aise bahut saare jagah niklenge." pic.twitter.com/6PqedNFEiT
— ANI (@ANI) August 6, 2018
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), which has been tasked with carrying out the audit, complained about the lack of cooperation from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. There are 316 childcare institutions in both these states, providing ‘shelter’ to over 7,000 children.
Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Kerala, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Delhi, too, have been resisting social audits at their childcare institutions, said NCPCR, whose audit will also encapsulate the living condition of children and carry a background check of the NGOs running these child care institutions. As per Section 41 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, registration of all childcare Institutions, whether funded by the government or not, is mandatory.
However, three years after its implementation, one-fourth of the CCIs are still unregistered. There are 5,850 registered and 1,339 unregistered CCIs in the country—more than 85 per cent of which is in Kerala alone—in which 2,32,937 children live, NCPCR data accessed by PTI showed. The state government has total control over the building and functioning of the shelter homes, which they either govern themselves or through the NGOs they appoint.
Though the central government has no direct role it provides much of the funds—under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme—and therefore, has a supervisory role over the overall working of the homes, which include observation home, special home, place of safety, specialised adoption agency and open shelter, which also house children in need of care and protection, and those in conflict with law.
While there has been a consistent increase in the funds released by the central government over the years, the state governments haven’t really been able to effectively utilise it. WCD Ministry released Rs 43,893.1 lakhs during 2015-16 for the Integrated Child Protection Scheme, a program which helps secure the abandoned, rescued, or orphaned children. This was an increase of 10.5 per cent from Rs 39,716.41 lakhs during 2014-15.
However, on average more than one-fourth the amount of fund couldn’t be utilised by the state governments for the development of shelter homes for children. Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are the worst performers with Rs 1,901.86 lakh and Rs 1,887.8 lakh of the unutilised funds respectively.
Nonetheless, low budgetary provisions and delayed release of funds coupled with untrained, inadequate staff hamper the programme’s effectiveness.
Home or Hell?
As per the National Crime Records Bureau, the crime against children increased 4.4 per cent in 2016 to 36,022 cases registered under Sexual Abuse/Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
In a social audit report of child shelter homes in Bihar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences underlined 15 institutions under “grave concerns” that required immediate action—at the top of which was one run by ‘Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti’ in Muzaffarpur where the girls were subjected to frequent sexual abuse.
In the 110 institutions surveyed by TISS in 35 districts of Bihar, it found that about 75 per cent of the girls were suffering from some form of abuse.
The report also found an alarming level of human rights violation; inappropriate infrastructure—ventilation, access to open space and overall hygiene conditions were found to be poor; a large number of people, including children, suffering from mental illness; little to no scope for recreational activities and vocational training.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) reported that it registered 203 complaints based on information received from 11 states/UTs regarding ran away/escaped from the observation/special homes during the last three years.
Further, 43 complaints regarding child abuse and neglect of children in childcare institutions during the last three years have been reported by the NCPCR, a Rajya Sabha reply by the WCD Ministry said.
Is Change Coming?
After the recent cases of alleged illegal adoptions of children carried out by the Missionaries of Charity in Jharkhand, the ministry has asked all the states /UTs to inspect their institutions by August 31, 2018, and to link all the childcare institutions with the close by Specialized Adoption Agency (SAA) for facilitating child adoption.
Before the Supreme Court order, there was no protocol for social audits and inspection committees and that only last month, the NCPCR released the standard operating procedure (SOP) for “escaped/runaway/sexual abuse/death of children in CCI”.
Corporal punishment (such as slapping, caning, flogging) is punishable by up to three months in jail, and “cruelty to child” by up to five years. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 awards life imprisonment for sexual offences against children.
The mechanism, however, is of little use unless the states complete the inspection and audit of their respective child care institutions.
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