Mumbai: Rajan Shinde (name changed) was an academically-focused child till the age of 12. His parents worked from morning to night to make ends meet, and in the absence of proper guidance, Rajan took to alcohol, drugs and smoking at the age of 13. He soon started picking pockets and snatching chains, but was caught by the special juvenile police unit, who sent him to a juvenile home.
Satyam Mhatre (name changed) lost his parents when he was 13. Unable to take care of him due to financial constraints, his relatives left him on the street a year later. The special juvenile police unit brought him to a juvenile home where he has been staying for the past two years.
Both the children are undergoing intensive psychotherapy and are showing signs of change.
As per the National Crime Records Bureau data in 2015, Maharashtra recorded the second highest number of juveniles in conflict with the law in the country. Efforts to rehabilitate them are woefully lacking, though. Nitika Nagar, a law graduate, began visiting the David Sassoon Home for Boys while writing her dissertation on the Indian Criminal Justice System as part of her diploma course in Human Rights Jurisprudence.
During her interaction with the inmates, she realised there were no reformative measures enforced by the government for the benefit of delinquents; neither were social organisations doing enough.
Ms. Nagar decided to fill the gap and founded the Healing Dove Foundation (HDF), a not for profit, in 2017 with an aim to reform and rehabilitate young delinquents and other marginalised youths in Mumbai.
The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, classifies juveniles into two categories: children in need of care and protection (CNCP) and children in conflict with law (CCL). Says Aditi Salkar, psychotherapist, “We believe intellectual and cognitive issues exist in both the categories and hence HDF works with both the vulnerable groups.”
The crimes they commit are a manifestation of their anger, grief or immaturity. Says Nitin Salkar, psychotherapist, “Most of these underage criminals come from homes and families where they see violence. They are often influenced by abusive parenting, peer pressure, and an economic crisis. Lack of rehabilitation opportunities force them to become repeat offenders and return to remand homes.”
Ms. Nagar says Satyam and Rajan, for instance, had pent-up emotions like anger, hatred towards society and feeling of loneliness, “which, if not tackled properly, could lead to graver acts.”
HDF, she says, tackles the situation from the root and ensure that the children do not go back to committing heinous crimes. “Our aim is to heal them from traumas they face.”
Currently working with the first batch of 23 boys at David Sassoon Juvenile Home in Matunga, a team of psychotherapists and trainers first try to diagnose the internal and external problem areas of each child. Says Mansi Thakkar, trustee and life coach, “We have an individual plan for each beneficiary, which involves certain reformative and rehabilitative steps. Factors such as age, education
level, family background, type of crime committed, their release period as also their interests, calibres and aptitudes are taken into consideration.”
Based on the pre-assessment report and various career intellect assessments/tests, the boys are divided into groups: those who wish to pursue education and those who desire to take an industrial training programme and placements once they move out of the Home.
Following the psychotherapy sessions, the boys will be inducted into various industrial training sessions provided by National Skill Development Corporation-affiliated training partners in the fields of hospitality, tourism, information technology and retail. The training session will start in August 2018.
Says Dr. Pradnya Nagar, trustee, “We are also in the process of devising individual academic plans for those who wish to continue with their education.”
Challenges and goals
Developing a rapport with young delinquents and convincing them for therapy is not easy, says Ms. Nagar. Further, there is no segregation of habitual and repeat offenders in rehabilitation homes, and the children are vulnerable to peer pressure. “The environment, too, in most
juvenile homes, is not friendly and lacks empathy and the human touch.” HDF has started a sensitisation programme for the custodians (parents and the staff of the homes) to help them understand the children better.
Generating funds, has been a challenge. “There have been donations and we have taken the crowd funding route to supplement our work, but to be able to impact higher number of beneficiaries, more funds are required.”
While HDF is focusing on employment and academic placements, they plan to assist the children in finding accommodation while they work or study and “help them in every way possible, so they can rehabilitate successfully”.
Says Ms. Nagar, “The goal is to help them become better human beings and assist them in finding their purpose in life. These are brilliant minds who have been influenced in the wrong direction owing to certain incidents in their lives. We want to show them the right path so they can live with respect and dignity.”
Healing Dove Foundation
Founder: Nitika Nagar
Funding: Donations; crowdfunding
Employees: 20 volunteers