NEW DELHI: The recent cases of sexual and physical abuse of minor girls at shelter homes in Bihar and UP highlight the fact that no lessons were learned from an equally horrifying scandal in Rohtak’s Apna Ghar six years ago when 100 children and women were rescued by the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights. The 2012 raid was carried out after three girls from Apna Ghar shelter run by NGO Bharat Vikas Sangh, managed to escape to Delhi and blow the lid off the gross sexual and physical abuse taking place there. The case, termed the national “hall of shame” by many, was subsequently transferred to the CBI and in April 2018, nine of the ten people named in the charge sheet were convicted and awarded varying degrees of punishment, the harshest being life imprisonment to three people.
Those involved in the probes say that state governments seem to have completely overlooked recommendations the NCPCR and the Union Women and Child Development Ministry issued at that time.
The advisory had stressed on the need for mandatory registration of all child care institutions under the Juvenile Justice Act and yearly social audit and psychological assessment of inmates.“With the extent of malaise being unearthed at so many homes several years later, it is clear that states did not take our advisory seriously,” said Vinod Tikoo, former NCPCR member who was instrumental in carrying out the raid at Apna Ghar.
WCD Ministry data says that out of over 9,500 shelter homes for minors, about a third are not registered.
Prabhat Kumar, national head for child protection at Save The Children said while the JJ Act, 2015 in its rules mentions inspections of shelter homes by district and child welfare committees and social audits, it does not specify how such audits should be done. “As a result, even those which are inspected sometimes are assessed only from administration and finance point of view and there is almost never any physiologist with these teams.” A senior official in the WCD Ministry conceded shortcomings and said states have now been ordered to hire credible agencies to carry out social audits of all homes with the help of the NCPCR and the NCW.
A robust and sincere inspection mechanism for all child care institutions should be put in place soon. Any laxity in reporting or wrong reporting should be taken seriously by the administration and suitable penal and disciplinary action initiated in all earnest.