37 tribal children rescued from ‘unlicensed’ home

Child Welfare panel alleges violation of various laws

Published - January 04, 2017 08:20 am IST - PUDUCHERRY:

Child Welfare Committee (CWC) recently rescued 37 tribal children from an unlicensed home in Odiampet in Puducherry.

CWC Chairperson Vidyaa Ramkumar on Tuesday told The Hindu that they inspected the Banjara Gypsy Home in December after they received a tip-off and found that they were functioning without a licence.

She noted that the Department of Social Welfare had conducted an inspection last February and instructed the staff to provide proper infrastructure and obtain a licence to run the home.

The CWC inspection team, which was headed by her and consisted of members and probation officers, interacted with the staff and inmates (children) of the institution.

During the interaction, they found that all the children were girls.

Guest house for visitors

The report submitted to the Department of Social Welfare after the inspection stated that the place was functioning as a guest house for foreign visitors before it was taken over by the management of the home.

The Home continued to provide accommodation to such visitors and the girls were made to entertain them by dancing and singing. The children have also reported physical and mental abuse by some staff of the Home.

The report also noted that the home was in a very remote place in Odiampet with no proper building infrastructure and in an unprotected environment.

It was functioning without a license and without adhering to the juvenile justice laws. It also stated that the children were not allowed to use the toilets or bathrooms in the home as it was for the visitors.

They were not trained to use western toilets and were forced to defecate in the open at neighbouring fields.

“These fields attracted miscreants and also had snakes and poisonous insects. No proper food was given to the children and most them went hungry many a times. Food that was donated was not distributed to them,” the report said.

It also added that on weekends, the children were made to collect firewood, which involved three to four hours of labour.

“They were strictly asked not to wash their clothes during the week. The children were made to walk a far distance to school. And, some had only one uniform and were often made poked fun of by classmates. There were no proper roads and the streets had no lights,” the report said.

“The watchman was reported to be in an inebriated condition often not in a position to render his duty. The children were not allowed to study in the rooms and instead were made to site in the corridor, which had minimum light. There were no female staff like a counsellor, warden or social worker to take good care of these children,” the CWC report recorded.

Allegations denied

However, a staff of the Banjara Gypsy Home denied all the allegations made by the CWC and stated that the parents willingly admitted the children to the Home.

“I have sought time to obtain license. The organisation, based in Andhra Pradesh, did not provide the documents on time to submit to Social Welfare Department to obtain the license,” noted the staff.

The staff added that the CWC visited the Home thrice and without any notice took the children.

“I informed them that we were willing to consider any of their suggestions and sought a written statement from them. But, they did not provide us anything and instead took the children away,” he said.

He also added that all the children living at the Banjara Gypsy Home were taken care of well and that they would obtain the licence at the earliest to run the Home.

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