In a combined hearing of custodial deaths of 14 children in orphanages and shelter homes, the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) has directed the state Women and Child Development (WCD) department to ensure that posts of medical officers in shelter homes are filled and compliance with the latest inspection report by WCD is done within two months.
The bench, headed by Justice MA Sayeed, observed: “This Commission is feeling concerned by the report of the death of children immediately after their admission in different children’s homes.” The deaths, in this case, happened between 2010 and 2012 in Mumbai, Pune, Solapur, Buldhana, Bhiwandi, Satara, and Aurangabad. Under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Rules, 2016, the Commission must be informed of each custodial death in the state.
In certain cases, children brought to shelter homes required medical intervention within a few days. In case of a 17-day-old baby, Tanishka, who died in July 2011 in Navi Mumbai’s Children of the World (India) Trust, she was found unresponsive four days after admission to the shelter home. She was declared brought dead at Vashi Municipal hospital. The cause of death was reserved by the hospital.
In another case, Sunil Vedpathak (15) in Satara’s Sadguru Shikshan Sanstha died due to snake bite. Medical records show the boy suffered a cardio respiratory attack due to snake bite. In most snake bite cases, timely intervention with anti-venom injection can save lives.
In May, the commission had directed the WCD department to submit an inspection report of each shelter home where death was reported. The bench observed that it was “an unfortunate scenario”. Six months later, the WCD department submitted a report observing that there was “no major lacunae or omission in the functioning of these children homes barring certain lapses like failure to appoint medical officers at some centres”.
Following an inspection by members appointed by the WCD, Pune-based Preet Mandir, where an infant named Mausami had passed away in June 2010, was issued a notice in 2013 and subsequently shut. The children were shifted to another shelter home in Pune. According to medical records with the Commission, Mausami suffered from heart ailment. She was initially admitted to Ruby Hall hospital and later shifted to KEM hospital, Pune, where she passed away in 2010.
Of the 14 deaths, six were in Mumbai. The WCD, which has 963 shelter homes in Maharashtra, has assured the Commission that regular inspections would be carried out and shelter homes issued notice for non-compliance.