Homes for girls in abject state of destitution

The state of affairs at the Delhi government’s three destitute girls’ homes on Jail Road is so grim that a newly-appointed superintendent thinks she is going “mentally sick” at her job.

Written by Krishnadas Rajagopal | New Delhi | Published:January 22, 2009 12:22 am

The state of affairs at the Delhi government’s three destitute girls’ homes on Jail Road is so grim that a newly-appointed superintendent thinks she is going “mentally sick” at her job.

Superintendent Suman Abrol,who is in charge of the home for girls below five years of age,said she has seen enough at the centre. These homes,for destitute and abandoned girls of various ages at the Nirmal Chhaya Complex,has seen 24 deaths between 2005 and 2007. One of the three has a single nurse tending to 258 children and another has been on the brink of an epidemic.

These revelations were part of a detailed 28-page report filed placed before a Division Bench of the High court led by Chief Justice A P Shah on Wednesday. The report was submitted by a four-member expert committee constituted by the Delhi Commission for the Protection of Child Rights. The report is attested by Commission chairperson Amod Kanth.

The report states: “The Superintendent is Mrs Suman Abrol. Most of the time she complained to the team (the expert panel) of becoming mentally sick if allowed to work in the home.” Abrol,the committee said,is one of the many officials who has occupied the post of “superintendent” at the children homes in rapid succession.

The panel,including a lawyer,a community medicine expert from AIIMS,a trained counsellor and a specialist in child protection from Jamia Milia University,interacted with the girls and also the staff. They found the nursing room was just another “room within the home”,where a single nurse grumbled about the workload.

“Some of the medicines were past expiry date. On being asked about the medicine stock register,the nurse said such a register was not maintained,” the report stated. The panel cites an instance when a child came in for medical attention with a “big wound” on her hip,but could not be rushed to DDU Hospital for want of a vehicle.

Questions about blocked sewers,dismal lighting and infrastructure and the overpowering stench in the homes — where younger children urinated “wherever they could” — were met with resigned explanations from the superintendent and staff. They blamed it on the “outsourcing and unresponsive behaviour of the PWD”.

“They (the superintendent and the district officer) had virtually given up and accepted that the present situation would prevail unmindful of the severe health hazards to which the children were being exposed to,” the report said. At this point,the panel warned of “every possibility that this condition could become an epidemic if left unattended”.

“The older children receive two pooris and tea for breakfast. The younger ones are fortunate to not only receive what the elders get,but in addition are served roti and milk after they have taken a bath,” the panel described the children’s nutritional intake.

Diet of not more than two chapatis,irrespective of the child’s age,scarcity of utensils — two or three children shared the same plate — and absence of non-vegetarian food,including eggs,was the information gathered from the homes’ nutrition chart.

This despite the budgetary allocation for food,medicines,bedding,etc,being hiked “substantially” from Rs 98,000 in 2005-2006 to Rs 11.25 lakh in 2008-2009 (till January 16,2009).

The survival rate at the homes is grim: four deaths in 2005,all caused by vomiting; eight in 2006,with one girl,named Meena,dying of bed sores and twelve deaths in 2007. No death was reported in 2008,the panel said.

The next date of hearing is February 5,when the court will issue an order after it goes through the report.

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