Bachchon Ka Ghar, the oldest orphanage in Delhi, is in desperate need of funds

While a few children are busy playing hide and seek, others are glued to computers and some get ready for the evening (asr) prayers. This is a usual scene at Bachchon Ka Ghar – a home for orphans at Darya Ganj. However, the oldest orphanage in the Capital, built in 1891 by acclaimed Unani medicine practitioner and freedom fighter Hakim Ajmal Khan, needs urgent attention.

The home shelters 200 children —130 boys (5 to 17 years old) and 70 girls who live at Matia Mahal. These children are taken care by a staff of 20 members, with 80-year-old Tejpal Bharti and 70-year old Khalil Ahmad being its ‘pillars’.

They supervise its daily functioning and arrange funds. While the Municipal Corporation of Delhi pays Rs.500 per month for every child, the rest of the funding comes through donors.

Bachchon Ka Ghar is housed in a sprawling, old-world style haveli. It also has two computer centres by the National Council for Promotion of Urdu (NCPUL), a dispensary, two parks, a library and a mosque.

But now, the orphanage is in desperate need of more funds. The signsare all too obvious. The boys’ section has filthy, tattered bedsheets scattered around with unclean washrooms. “They are going to be cleaned tomorrow,” said Mr. Bharti, but his words sound hollow.

“Much of my time goes in writing to the Delhi Government to give land for building a girls’ Bachchon Ka Ghar. I had applied in 2000, but to no avail.”

Due to government apathy, Mr. Bharti said, “Girls are living in a bad condition. The area is teeming with anti-social elements. I wish the government grants a plot for the girls’ orphanage soon”

Incidentally, this year, 15 children will pass Class XII from the boys’ orphanage. “Those who want a job in Delhi will be taught computer courses and will be sponsored till they get one,” said Mr. Bharti.

Mr. Ahmad said the organisation has been “looking after Muslim orphan children who are eight years and above. The definition of yateem (orphan) in Islam is that the child is fatherless. If the mother is alive then also he/she is a yateem.”

“But while the orphanage was initially called Yateem Khana Moidul Islam, Dr. Zakir Hussain changed its name in the late 1960s reasoning that the words yateem khana will make children grow up with an inferiority complex,” Mr. Bharti recalled.

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