NEW DELHI: The first ever national audit of shelter homes, commissioned by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, has revealed that nearly 40% of such centres did not have adequate measures in place to prevent physical or sexual abuse of children.
The audit was initiated after the mass sexual abuse of girls at state-funded shelter homes in Muzzaffarpur (Bihar) and Deoria (Uttar Pradesh), run by NGOs, in 2018. The full report was submitted to the Supreme Court by the apex child rights body earlier this year.
As per the report, there are 7,163 child care institutions in India that include children’s home or fit facility shelter, open shelter, specialised adoption agency, observation home and special home. Of these, a whopping 6,299 or nearly 88% are run by NGOs or trusts while the government runs only 864 centres, mainly observation homes where juveniles in conflict with law are kept.
There are over 2.5 lakh children currently lodged in shelter homes across the country, and nearly 70% of them are in 8 states only. The 94-page report says that according to Rule 76(1) of Juvenile Justice Model Rules, 2016, every child care institution shall evolve a system of ensuring that there is no abuse, neglect and maltreatment; shall include staff who is aware of what constitutes abuse, neglect and maltreatment, and their early indication; and how to respond to these abuses.
However, in 2,764 shelter homes these measures were found to be grossly inadequate. “This means that in nearly 40% of the shelter homes, staff members were not properly trained to the need to understand or raise alarm if kids are abused and also, the required infrastructure and mechanism to ensure proper physical and emotional well-being of the children was not in place,” a senior NCPCR official said.
The report also highlighted the glaring lack of basic facilities such as kitchen, cooks, privacy in toilets, counselling, recreation and sick rooms, case history of children, medical facilities and education in a large number of homes. There had been no random inspections by the district child welfare committees, as mandated by the JJ Act, in about 40% or 2,837 CCIs, suggesting that such centres were left solely at the mercy of the caretakers, leaving children susceptible to exploitation.
The NCPCR official also pointed out that in over 20% homes, there were no dedicated cooks, implying that the children would be forced to cook for themselves. “After these shocking shortcomings came to light we sent the details of each and every shelter home to the district magistrate concerned. We have now heard back on about 2,000 shelter homes from the authorities while the rest are yet to reply,” the official said.