CHENNAI: How to discipline a child who plays truant? Beat him with a rubber tube. Yes, this is what staff of the government-run children’s home at Royapuram does, if one were to believe the words of Samuel (name changed), a class VII student, who was caught by the police roaming on the Marina Beach and handed over to the home.
More shocking, the child had to stay in the home for a week, despite his father tracing him in the next two days and pleaded his son be sent with him. “I cried when I saw my son being treated like a criminal. His left cheek was swollen and his palms were red,” says Joseph (name changed), the boy’s father.
The traumatic trial for the son and father began on the morning of February 3, when Paul, a widower, working as a painter to make both ends meet, was out of town on work. Perhaps making use of his father’s absence, Samuel took a little pleasure in bunking the school and instead chose to visit the Marina beach. He did not get caught by his school teachers or relatives. But, as it turned out be more scary for him later, two policewomen in plainclothes noticed the boy roaming suspiciously on the beach. The boy gave his father’s cellphone number. Since the boy’s father could not be immediately reached over phone, the police personnel handed the child over to the government-run children’s home at Royapuram. “As soon as I was brought to the home, a staff asked me why I’d bunked school and began hitting me with a rubber tube. Even when I told them I had simply gone to the beach, they continued hitting me,” the child told Express, soon after he what he felt like “being released” from the home.
On February 4, the boy’s father returned to Chennai and began frantically searching for his missing son. Only the next day, his neighbour gave him a note with the mobile number of a sub-inspector, that the police left him two days early. “I immediately called up the sub-inspector. She informed me that my son was at the government home,” says the father.
After two days of staying amid strangers, Samuel was relieved when he finally saw his father. But as both the father and son thought, they could not immediately walk back home. “The staff asked me to approach the children’s home at Kelly’s. The staff in the Kelly’s home said I should come back on Tuesday to take my son back,” says Joseph.
Finally, on Tuesday, the Child Welfare Committee held a hearing and the boy was allowed to go with his father.