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Homeward bound for Kandhamal

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All smiles: Children from Kandhamal rescued from a private institution in Thiruvananthapuram will leave for Orissa on October 16. —
All smiles: Children from Kandhamal rescued from a private institution in Thiruvananthapuram will leave for Orissa on October 16. —

Sangeeth Kurian

Children rescued from a ‘care home’ set to return amidst safety concerns

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Ajaya Nath is all excited as he talks about his friends in Kandhamal, his hometown in Orissa.

“We play cricket at the school ground every Saturday and watch an Amitabh Bachchan movie at a friend’s house nearby,” gushes the nine-year-old.

But that was till Ajaya was entrusted to the custody of Christudas, who ran a children’s home at Dhanuvachapuram here, by his parents for providing “further education.”

Nearly a year later, Ajaya along with 12 others were rescued from the private home by officials of the Department of Social Welfare following complaints from local residents that the children were being harassed and exploited. Of this, 12 hail from Kandhamal and one from New Delhi.

Currently sheltered at government homes in Poojappura, the children will leave for Kandhamal on October 16, raising concerns about their safety in the volatile region.

Communal tension

Like Ajaya, all his friends are ignorant about the communal tension prevailing in their hometown.

Kandhamal was in the news recently for a spate of anti-Christian violence in the wake of the killing of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader there.

“We are really concerned about their safety in Orissa,” said K.K. Subair, District Probation Officer, who rescued the children from the private home in March.

“Communal tension in the district is one of the main reasons for delaying their departure to Orissa,” said Mr. Subair.

Instead of sending the children directly to Kandhamal, officials are now planning to send them to the Child Welfare Committee in Bhubaneswar.

“The child welfare committee in turn will decide on how to rehabilitate the children by contacting their parents,” he said.

The private home in Dhanuvachapuram has since been closed, pending police investigation.

Rule flouted

According to Social Welfare Department officials, the Juvenile Justice Act and the Orphanages and other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act clearly states that children who are in need of care and protection below the age of 18 years should be relocated to a different State only with the approval of the respective State government.

The private institution at Dhanuvachapuram flouted this rule, they said.

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