A seven-page order of the Kerala State Human Rights Commission, seeking to look behind the veil of goodwill synonymous to orphanages, has made scathing remarks on the lack of “enthusiasm” from the Board of Control of Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes.
The remarks were part of an order by commission chairperson J.B. Koshy on January 21.
Reacting to this on Wednesday, chairperson of the Board of Control of Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes, P.C. Ibrahim, denied any slip of guard. He said the board conducted regular checks and monitoring of orphanages.
The January-order followed an August 29, 2013, direction by the commission for a comprehensive probe into the legal status of orphanages, status of their registration, and details of children living in them.
It also served to clear the air on the nature of the ongoing investigation by its chief investigating officer. The order, authored by Mr. Koshy, told orphanage authorities that there was nothing to fear if they had followed the laws of the land. It wanted the investigation to be completed in three months for a final decision.
“Sixty-six criminal cases have been registered of incidents, including children missing and sexually abused, from orphanages, destitute homes, and charitable institutions. However, many of these cases are reported as ‘undetected.’ For children who are victims of ‘man missing’ cases, their addresses are not known,” Mr. Koshy described the state of affairs.
Mr. Koshy said he had received several oral complaints on the plight of children in orphanages and care homes. The commission had decided to take up the matter suo motu in 2013 on realising that none of the complainants would come forward for fear of their lives.
The order explained that the human rights body was forced to intervene because of the lack of enthusiasm apparent on the side of the Orphanage Control Board.
“Had the Orphanage Control Board shown enthusiasm, this investigation would not have been necessary, the incidents which led to the registering of 66 criminal cases would not have arisen… It was the duty of the Orphanage Control Board to collect the details necessary to protect the human rights of the unfortunate persons living in orphanages, destitute homes, and charitable institutions,” the commission observed in the January order.
Mr. Koshy recorded how the board had so far not cooperated in the probe by collecting and transferring records of orphanages or by putting in place a mechanism to protect the human rights of those living in such institutions .
As per Rule 17 of the Kerala State (Orphanages and Charitable Homes) Board of Control Rules, all orphanages should maintain admission and attendance registers. These records would contain the details of each inmate and also act as a curb against any irregularities by institution authorities.
“Had this been followed, our investigation would have been a lot more easier,” Mr. Koshy said. “Instead, institutions which choose to come forward to share details are discouraged from doing so,” he observed.
“The registers and details, including photographs of children, are maintained in all orphanages. The board cannot be expected to keep with it the records of every child in each of a total 2,128 orphanages in the State. Action can be taken against errant institutions, but not all organisations should be put in the dock,” Mr. Ibrahim said.