Unlicensed children's homes thrive as Govt turns a blind eye

Issue comes to fore after hospitalisation of 23 girls from an orphanage

The girls fell ill after consuming contaminated potable water from a leaky pipe. An obvious question that begs to be asked is how such centres are able to escape any scrutiny whatsoever, until such regrettable incidents occur.

The answer is simple. There is no licensing. Despite clear guidelines in the Juvenile Justice Act, the Department of Women and Child Development (DCWD) has made no attempt to register any of the organisations which run institutions housing children.

Section 34(3) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill 2005 is specific. Any residential institutions that house children should be registered with the State Government and provide complete details about the facilities.
But DCWD’s lethargy has left the activities of several organisations, where facilities are well below par, outside government scrutiny.

As early as March this year, 10 institutes, including the New Life Centre were reported to DCWD by the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR), stating that they were not licensed and there was no regulation on how the children were brought to these centres.

There were no proper records maintained of inmates. However, the file gathered dust and it took the hospitalisation of the girls to bring the matter to light.

The complaint about the centre came after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights wrote to their state chapter, after receiving information that children were being brought from Manipur.

While supposedly an orphanage, a cursory examination of records showed that several children had one parent, mostly single mothers and there was some indication that the children were beaten up.

The owner of the centre, Nirmala Vasanth Kumar is the wife of Bishop S Vasanth Kumar of Karnataka Central Diocese (KCD). Interestingly, three weeks ago, the IV Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate directed the City Police to probe into allegations of cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy against Bishop S Vasanth Kumar and his family members.
Child Rights Commission members complained that Nirmala was unperturbed with all the questioning.

“She seemed to be confident that she would not have a problem getting out of the situation,” a member, who visited the centre remarked.

Child rights activists despair that as long as there is no push towards mandatory registration to run such institutions, there is no way to ensure that the centres follow prescribed rules and conditions for operating such facilities.
“Unless we receive a complaint, we are not even aware of the existence of such centres. Under such circumstance, how can we ensure the safety of such children?” a member asks.

Now, the DWCD predictably says that they are set to begin the process of registering such institutions. But whether they will follow this through remains to be seen.
DH News Service

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