NEW DELHI: India’s apex child rights body has highlighted gross irregularities and illegalities in the running of Children National Institute — a shelter home for girls in Allahabad’s Anand Bhawan, the ancestral house of Nehru-Gandhi family — and has asked the Uttar Pradesh government to shift the inmates urgently “till their living conditions are improved”.
In a letter to the UP chief secretary and other officials concerned, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has said that 29 girls, aged between 6 and 17, are being kept at the institute without being produced in front of the district welfare committee in violation of the Juvenile Justice Act provisions and that their living conditions are “pathetic”.
The NCPCR had recently carried out an inspection after a social audit commissioned by it brought to the light the existing condition of girls in the orphanage, set up by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947 where children who had lost their parents during Partition were first kept.
The shelter home is since being run in a part of Anand Bhawan called Swaraj Bhawan and is managed by a trust.Calling the shelter home “one of the most premier and oldest in India established by the first Prime Minister”, the Commission has in its letter to the state said that “the physical condition of home was so pathetic that it was difficult to believe. Bathrooms of CNI have no doors and general upkeep of the institute was far from satisfactory”. It suggested that alternate arrangements be made for girls to stay till the condition of the shelter home is improved.
“We found that the girls are provided just one meal by the institute while for others, they are dependent on donations from outside. There is no proper staff to take care of the girls, inadequate number of beds for them to sleep and no proper documents on their background,” said a senior official of the Commission.
NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo, who had inspected CNI earlier this month following the social audit by an independent agency, had tweeted that he was “shocked at the serious violations of the JJ Act and irregularities in the running of the institute.”
The social audits of nearly 7,000 shelter homes across India are being carried out on the direction of Supreme Court which had passed the order while hearing the Muzaffarpur shelter home case that involved repeated sexual exploitation of over 30 minior girls. When approached for his comments, Col (retd) R K Kak, secretary of CNI, said he was “unaware of any inspection by any authorities”. He also sought to distance the shelter home from the Gandhi family saying that the “institute is run by a non-political, non-religious and autonomous body”.