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Dongri remand home needs rehabilitation

Mumbai: Nearly four years after the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 was amended and set standards for rehabilitation measures, education, vocational training and counselling, there is much to change at children’s observation homes in the state.

The remand home at Dongri is a case in point, where children in the age group of 12-18 are housed — those in conflict with law sharing space with those in need of care and protection. While the home can house 150 boys and 80 girls, there are about 180 boys and 53 girls in the two buildings there.

Boys and girls are given uniforms, basic food and some books. But if reformation is at the core of the JJ Act, it appears to be a hard-to-achieve target.

The Act states, “Rehabilitation and social integration of a child shall begin during the stay of the child in a children’s home and the rehabilitation and social reintegration of children shall be carried out alternatively by, adoption, foster care, sponsorship and sending the child to an after-care organisation.”

Speaking to The Hindu , an official said, “The remand home needs to start counselling sessions. There is no provision for rehabilitation of drug addicts or for creating awareness among children that if they indulge in certain activities they will be in trouble.” Juvenile homes are overcrowded and unhygienic. Many are sexually abused by older residents and there is lack of counsellors, say social activists working with these children. “Most of the residents are drug addicts who indulge in petty crimes and at times overcrowding leads to fight over minor issues,” said a social worker.

Feeling almost helpless are children who have landed here for reasons other than crime. “I used to work at a restaurant at Saki Naka and was caught for child labour. My boss got bail the next day, but I am here for the past 20 days as he has to be present here to pay for my bail,” a 13-year-old said. A social worker working with children in conflict with law said, “While we help draw plans for children once they are 18 and out of here, reformation has to start from this home. We help kids receive basic education, training in mechanics, mobile repair and anything they are interested in.”

The Dongri remand home shares space with the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), also known as the children’s court. The legal cell is housed in another building . The Child Welfare Committee, formed to look into the rehabilitation and reformation of the children, is also located here. Officials say the main objective of the JJ Act is to rehabilitate and reform children to wean them away from the path of crime.

Among those living at the Dongri home are runaways from states such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and officials said repatriation with parents was their priority.

Then there are victims of trafficking, for whom counselling is essential as many have a history of abuse. Children addicted to drugs are also brought in by NGOs, railway police or social workers.

Petty offences

“These kids are usually the ones who indulge in petty offences such as chain-snatching, pick-pocketing and mobile snatching as they need money for survival. The percentage of kids indulging in heinous crimes is low, an official said.

A critical issue faced by the homes is the paucity of funds to take care of the residents. “While the state pays us Rs 630 for each child a month, our expenditure per child comes to Rs 2,300. The school also needs more guards. While 22 posts have been sanctioned, we have only 18 guards working in three shifts,” the official said.

While hearing a suo motu petition, the Bombay High Court has suggested that the juveniles should be provided books and shown cartoon films on television.

In July 2010, the government said it was planning to privatise the seven remand homes in the state. In March 2015, the State said it would soon convene a meeting to take a policy decision on Bal Sudharak kendras, which need immediate attention .

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 8:46:07 AM |

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