Udaipur- In a disturbing incident, a group of 8 to 10 children, inmates of the Lavina Seva Sansthan, a children's home located in the tribal-dominant Ogna village of Udaipur's Jhadol block, reportedly escaped the facility on Saturday after attending school. The issue came to the forefront when the local police were notified about the children's disappearance, prompting a swift search operation that successfully brought the children back to Udaipur. The circumstances surrounding their escape and the subsequent events are currently under investigation.
Upon their retrieval, the children were produced before Ankur Tank, a member of the Udaipur Child Welfare Committee (CWC). During counselling sessions, distressing revelations came to light, pointing towards alleged maltreatment and negligence at the Lavina Seva Sansthan.
Speaking to The Mooknayak, Ankur Tank shared insights from his interaction with the rescued children, highlighting issues of inadequate provisions and alleged mistreatment. The children said that they were not provided sufficient and nutritious meals. Some children claimed that they faced physical abuse and harassment when they dared to request more food. The most troubling revelation was that the ration items allocated for the children were purportedly being resold in the market.
Bharat Purbia, the director of Lavina Seva Sansthan, went to provide an explanation. However, instead of offering immediate clarification, he was instructed to visit the CWC office for a detailed inquiry.
Ankur Tank emphasized the severity of the situation, noting that it was alarming for eight children, who had been residing in the shelter home for an extended period, to run away. During a recent inspection of the same organization, Ankur recounted a troubling incident where a child disclosed to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) team that all children were compelled to share a single bar of soap for bathing. Shockingly, instead of addressing the issue, the shelter home manager later reprimanded the child for divulging such details.
The children, who spent time hiding in the jungle, were eventually discovered by the police. Some managed to reach their homes, while others were safely rescued. Tank said the CWC would order a comprehensive investigation into the matter to ascertain the truth behind the allegations and take appropriate action against those responsible for any wrongdoing.
It may be noted that due to its substantial tribal population, the entire Jhadol tehsil has been incorporated into the Tribal Sub-Plan. This special inclusion is aimed at addressing the unique needs and challenges faced by tribal communities in the region. Additionally, Jhadol tehsil has been designated as a scheduled area, providing special protection to preserve and promote tribal culture and safeguard other interests specific to the tribal population.
The incident in Rajasthan, involving the fleeing of minors, gains added significance in light of the recent news from Bhopal, where 26 girls were discovered missing from a shelter home last week. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) discovered that 26 girls, aged between 6 to 18 years, had gone missing from an illegally operated shelter home in Bhopal. The girls, hailing from various states including Gujarat, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, were rescued and housed in the 'Children Home' run by the NGO Anchal Missionary.
The NCPCR Chairman, Priyank Kanungo, brought the case to light during an unexpected check at the Aanchal Girls’ Hostel. Swift police action followed after the incident was reported by the State Child Rights Protection Commission. All 26 missing girls were traced in and around Bhopal city.
Preliminary investigations suggest that the girls returned to their respective homes when they felt uncomfortable in the shelter home. Bhopal district superintendent of police, Pramod Kumar Sinha, assured that the statements of the girls are being recorded, and appropriate action will be taken based on their statements. There were no reports of physical or sexual assault on the girls at the Centre, according to the SP.
The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights found that the shelter home was being operated illegally by the NGO. Consequently, the NGO management has been booked for running the shelter home without proper authorization.
NCPCR Chairman Priyank Kanungo has taken serious note of the incident and sought a report from the chief secretary of the Madhya Pradesh government. In response to the scandal, the state government has suspended two project officers and a supervisor from the state women and child welfare department.
The incident raises concerns about the safety and legality of shelter homes, emphasizing the need for thorough monitoring and accountability in such institutions. These occurrences bring attention to the broader issue of child welfare and the imperative to ensure the safety and well-being of children placed in such homes across different regions.
Child Safety at Risk: Inadequacies Unveiled in First-Ever National Audit of Shelter Homes
The inaugural national audit of shelter homes, initiated by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in 2020, brought to light a concerning reality. The audit revealed that almost 40% of these facilities lacked adequate measures to prevent physical or sexual abuse of children. India boasts a total of 7,163 child care institutions, encompassing various types such as children's homes, fit facility shelters, open shelters, specialized adoption agencies, observation homes, and special homes.
Shockingly, the report disclosed that a substantial majority, approximately 88%, of these institutions—amounting to 6,299—are operated by NGOs or trusts. In contrast, the government directly oversees only 864 centers. This imbalance raises questions about the distribution of responsibilities and resources in ensuring the welfare and safety of children in such institutions.
Currently, more than 2.5 lakh children find themselves residing in shelter homes nationwide. Astonishingly, nearly 70% of them are concentrated in just eight states. A glaring deficiency in essential facilities, including kitchens, cooks, private toilets, counseling, recreation areas, sick rooms, and comprehensive educational resources, is prevalent in the majority of child care institutions. Shockingly, these deficiencies compromise the well-being and development of the children under their care.