NEW DELHI: Aatif (name changed) is a bedridden 11-year-old who cannot walk, sit, or even keep his hands in one position for too long. For this boy suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, life has been no cakewalk. The disease forced him to drop out of school when he was in Class III and to make matters worse, his father was incarcerated in 2004 and sentenced to five years of imprisonment.
He though continues to serve his sentence till this day because of his frequent need to visit home to assist his wife with Aatif’s hospital visits. Aatif, who lives with his mother and younger brother, survives off the diminutive income of their father from inside the prison.
The case sheds some light on the dark reality suffered by children of parents who are in prison. To help children like Aatif and numerous others the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has sent a list of recommendations to the Delhi government to reform the current system of welfare to such children.
The body submitted a detailed report claiming that the design and implementation of the Scheme of Financial Sustenance, Education & Welfare of Children of Incarcerated Parents, 2014 as “unsatisfactory, inaccessible and lackadaisical”.
After a survey, it was found that being the children of convicts made them vulnerable to insensitivity and harassment from relatives, peers and even teachers with a few exceptions. The DCPCR has made a series of recommendations, including full waiver of tuition fees or any other such charge by private school authorities if the child is already enrolled.
Among other suggestions, given the high financial cost of incarceration and the enhanced cost of living from the time that the scheme was initiated, the body suggested that the quantum of financial assistance for the first child should be increased to `4,000 per month and `3,500 per month for each subsequent child.
DCPCR also suggested that amendments should be made to include reimbursement of tuition fee by the government and should ensure that child gets admitted in the nearest government school if the family cannot afford the fee further.
“Children experienced varied periods of educational cessation as well as multiple school transitions while some even had to drop out. The children struggled to cope with unresolved grief coupled with feelings of anger towards the criminal justice system due to the ambiguous loss of parents,” said the report.