Records reveal youth aged 19 and 21 stayed at Government Home in Royapuram; experts say this is illegal. The infrastructure at the government home is woefully inadequate to deal with children in need of rehabilitation. The inflow of children from Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra has doubled

The Government Children’s Home for Boys in Royapuram, technically for children, has been detaining boys over the age of 18 as well.

Records at the Home show that they detained boys who were 18 years of age or older – with names of the boys and their respective ages – 18, 19 and even 21.

S. Kannayiran, former field officer of the Department of Social Defence, said “It is illegal to detain a child who is above the age of 18. They cannot do that.”

According to P. Manorama, former chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee, such instances are not uncommon there. “We would get boys who seemed above the age of 18 and would send them for medical tests to try and determine their age,” she said.

The infrastructure at the government home is woefully inadequate to deal with children in need of rehabilitation. “The home gets 60-80 new children every month. The inflow of children from Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra has doubled, but the home is understaffed,” said Ms. Manorama.

On why boys aged 18 or older were detained, Glory Gunaseeli, superintendent of the government home in Royapuram, on Tuesday, said: “We didn’t have any proof of their age. We will produce them before the Child Welfare Committee and then release them.” The boys were subsequently released on Wednesday.

Geeta Ramaseshan, a senior lawyer, said it was preposterous that the home detained boys who were over 18 years old. “The Juvenile Justice Act only covers children under 18. The older boys were housed with children, and that has its own repercussions,” she said.

Irregularities at the home are not restricted only to the detention of boys over 18. Some children say they were abused while at the government home.

According to a 16-year-old runaway child from Nanded in Maharashtra, who was contacted over telephone (his number was obtained from records at the home), some of the caretakers beat him with a stick while he was there.

The boy was part of a group that escaped from the government home last week. He has now been reunited with his parents.

However, sources at the home denied the allegation, adding that one could not go entirely by what the children said.

Ms. Ramaseshan also said children from northern states often found it difficult to negotiate language barriers at the home. From an unfamiliar culture to food they are not used to, the children have to endure challenging circumstances day after day.

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