A job to fall back on may prevent them from going back to their old way of life

Six months ago, 12-year-old Raja (name changed) of Sellur was lodged in the Juvenile Observation Home in the city in connection with a theft case. While most of his fellow inmates were released, Raja was detained as none of his family members was willing to take him home after the confinement period.

The boy does not have a family or a job to go back to. He is one of the several parentless children at the borstal who require rehabilitation to navigate through life in the right direction.

The home has 30 inmates from six districts. It houses the Juvenile Justice Board with jurisdiction over Madurai, Dindigul, Theni, Sivaganga, Virudhunagar, and Ramanathapuram districts. Normally juveniles are not detained for more than two months irrespective of the gravity of cases against them. Those involved in crimes such as robbery are released in 15 days. During this period, they take part in recreational activities such as playing chess, carrom and table tennis and attend yoga, meditation and academic classes. The home has a decent library for the inmates, says G. Jeyalakshmi Jegadeesan, Member, Juvenile Justice Board.

Those who evince interest in vocational courses are sent to a special home in Chengalpet where they get trade training in cookery, carpentry and electric wiring till they become a major. Despite best efforts to reform them, nearly half of them fall back into the rut and find themselves back in the home, she says.

Nearly 70 per cent of the inmates end up facing criminal proceedings owing to bad influence of domestic environment. Lack of social support system is another reason, counsellors feel.

Employment is the only way to empower these children and prevent them from relapsing into crime, opines C. Muthuraja of the Department of Economics, The American College, who counsels the inmates every week. “During counselling, many children have requested us to conduct training programmes that will help them set up a business or get a job to make a living,” he says.

Office-bearers of Madurai Children’s Aid Society that runs the home say it is facing a financial crunch. “We are unable to meet even the basic expenses and are dependent on donors. It will be good if corporate houses and philanthropists come forward to help us,” says S. Rajagopal, its president.

More In: Madurai