Five-year-old Gopal who born inside Mangalore District Prison and whose parents are in jail as under-trials for more than six years, has failed to enjoy normal childhood.
Five-year-old Gopal* sees the outside world through the meshed windows of the police van, when he accompanies his parents to the court for trial. Those trips are few and far between. But there is a glimmer of hope for Gopal — born inside Mangalore District Prison — to enjoy a normal childhood.
K. Srinath*, who runs a hospital in Surathkal, has come forward coming forward to provide foster care to the child, whose parents — Prakash* and Pavitra* — are in the jail as under-trials for more than six years facing charges of murder.
Mr. Srinath says, “The child needs freedom and cannot have a normal growth in the prison. I am inclined to take the child under my care with the consent of my wife, which I think is also important.”
He says he had discussed the issue with Ministers B. Ramanatha Rai and Vinay Kumar Sorake and also approached the Child Welfare Committee in Dakshina Kannada. Though the mother is all for allowing Gopal to have a normal life, the father is unwilling to let him out of the prison.
Judith Mascarenhas, the former deputy mayor who visits women inmates of the prison regularly and conducts yoga classes for them, says, “The child is smart, but I feel so sorry for him. He is confined to the four walls. As per the law, the child should be with the mother. But the Pavitra thinks the child should attend pre-school and have a normal upbringing. But, the father does not agree to the idea of sending the child out,” she said.
Ms. Mascarenhas says she has found Gopal to be very active and intelligent. “He comes to me asking for snacks. I gifted a pair of plastic chairs and a bicycle. The child is so happy,” she says.
Chairperson of CWC Asha Nayak told The Hindu that there are many who want to take the child under their care. “We will examine the family background and financial status of the person who has come forward to provide foster care. Moreover, we cannot take the decision without parental consent. There are certain procedures before coming to any conclusions about the child.”
Ms. Nayak promised to arrange counsellors to convince the father. “If that succeeds, I will be very happy,” she says.
Superintendent of the Mangalore District Prison K. Doddakamaiah said as per the Prison Manual, Gopal will be kept with his mother in the prison until the age of six. Later, he will be sent to the observation centre until at least one of their parents is released.
(*Names changed to protect the identity of the child)