Life interrupted - at Delhi’s inhuman juvenile homes (Feature)

June 25th, 2009 - 2:33 pm ICT by IANS  

By Shweta Srinivasan
New Delhi, June 25 (IANS) The stench of human waste grabs you as you walk in. And from then it is all downhill - understaffed, lacking hygiene, pathetic sanitation. Inmates at the state-run juvenile homes in Delhi are “living life worse than that of animals”.

This is stated in a report by the rights body Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) and borne out by a visit to one such facility by this IANS correspondent who posed as a prospective volunteer.

The condition at the Asha Kiran Complex in northwest Delhi’s Rohini area was an eye-opener. Many areas near the cottages and the medical block reeked of urine.

As stated by the report, the complex lacked staff, which was not only ill-qualified to tend to the multitude of inmates’ needs but was underpaid as well. The correspondent was only allowed access to the medical and administrative blocks and not inside the cottages.

“This is a government facility - one can’t have expectations. There are inmates of all ages here, we house the male children separately from adults. The severity of their conditions vary,” a sociology graduate working as a caretaker at one of the cottages told IANS.

The DCPCR inspection committee found gross negligence and conditions derogatory to any human rights during surprise checks at 10 homes under the Delhi government’s directorate of social welfare.

“The worst condition was at the Asha Kiran Complex - which houses the Vikassini Home for Mentally Retarded (Juvenile), Pragati Institute for Severely and Profoundly Mentally Retarded Children, the Sukhanchal School and Home for Mentally Retarded Juveniles,” Shashank Shekhar, DCPCR member, told IANS.

Although sanctioned for 250 inmates, the complex - the only state-run complex for mentally challenged people here - houses 750 mentally retarded men, women and children.

One caretaker and one ‘house aunty’ take care of 30 to 40 inmates. In addition, one psychologist - who, the report, says is too overburdened to attend to emergencies - two nurses and two attendants comprise medical staff for the entire facility.

The house aunty is paid a mere Rs.1,000 a month for round-the-clock care - often payment is delayed for months, the report found. The house aunty was to be paid Rs.90 per day as promised by Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit in 1998.

The DCPCR report narrated tales of the poor conditions in which inmates were kept - dirty and unwashed, inmates were seen rolling naked on the floor because of lack of beds and to restrict the use of the clothes available - which would require upkeep and maintenance; food prepared was not edible.

The choked bathrooms added to the stench.

Around 75 inmates died between 2004 and 2008 at the complex. In many of these cases the cause of death was epileptic seizures, which the DCPCR committee said could be owing to neglect of the facility’s medical authorities.

Most inmates were abandoned by their families or were picked up on the streets unclaimed.

The inspection committee found that at the Asha Kiran complex common medical care unit, 40 children were suffering from tuberculosis, seizures, skin diseases each among others due to gross overcrowding, lack of hygiene and pathetic sanitary conditions. One child was also HIV positive, the report said.

The report also said at many of the homes there were gross human rights violations ranging from the ‘kutai day’ (day of beating) to lack of basic access to soap as well as being locked up at night with no access to toilets.

At the Ashiana and Phulwari homes for boys in Alipur, outer Delhi, housing almost half its sanctioned capacity of 107 and 300 respectively, younger boys were bullied and beaten up regularly by older boys on fixed days known as ‘kutai’. The report said corporal punishment was rampant.

The buildings of the homes for children of leprosy-affected persons at Nirmal Chayya Parisar in west Delhi were observed to be in dilapidated condition. While many parts of the damaged building were undergoing prolonged renovation, the toilets were dirty and in non-working condition, the report found.

“The DCPCR has now begun an in-depth investigation into the affairs of the homes. There is an urgent need to overcome bureaucratic hurdles and red-tape that stall sanctioned funds. The human resource requirement should be fulfilled. Infrastructure maintenance and condition of these homes need to be reviewed systematically not on ad hoc basis as has been the case,” Shekhar said.

(Shweta Srinivasan can be contacted at

–Indo-Asian news Service


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