A seven-member co-ordination committee appointed to survey the condition of orphanages in the state has made some important observations regarding lack of attention to these homes,Child Welfare Committee member Santosh Shinde tells Megha Sood
Do you think the State is not serious about quality care for children in institutions?
There are 1,039 childrens homes in Maharashtra,of which only 48 are government-run. There are 46 in Mumbai with more than 4,000 children each. A shelter or home for children should have an individual care plan,which none of these homes has. The co-ordination committee appointed by the HC has also observed that in a home for the mentally disabled at Mankhurd,there is segregation according to age of children and not according to their mental disability. The Childrens Commission of the state should have a probation officer checking on protection of children in these homes. The high court has to intervene due to the negligence of the state authorities. Secondly,the state has not sanctioned a single rupee towards Woman and Child Welfare.
What is the role of Child Welfare Committee (CWC)?
The CWC is established under Juvenile Justice Act. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act,2000. It protects the rights of the child. The State Government under the department of Women and Child Development appoints the CWC. Each district has one CWC,and I am on the committee in Mumbai with three other members. Children are referred to us by the railway police,juvenile aid police,NGOs,public,or any child may approach us. The motto of the Juvenile Justice Act is to give a family to every child. Under the Juvenile Justice Act,there are two sections; one is for children in conflict with law and a magistrate deals with them,and the other section is for children in need of care and protection,dealt with by the CWC.
What duties does the CWC have in checking orphanages and childrens homes?
The CWC is a quasi-judicial bench having same powers as judicial magistrates. The role of CWC ends there as far as the checking of orphanages and childrens homes goes,it is the duty of the district woman and child officer appointed by the state. The CWC can only make recommendations and not take action.
What are the standard procedures of rehabilitating a rape victim by the CWC?
In Mumbai,we get about two rape and molestation cases every month. When a rape victim is brought before the CWC,the victims protection is the priority. After that is ensured,the victims statement is recorded before the CWC members,following which the probation officer files a complaint at the police station. The CWC then helps the police with investigations and the public prosecutor to prepare a case before the court. The victim is then sent to a protective home,however ensuring the protection of the victim is up to the institution.
What if the child is not getting adequate protection in the home or faces sexual abuse there?
The caretaker,manager and trustee of the home are booked under relevant charges if the case is brought to CWCs notice.
What steps could be taken to reduce abuse of children,especially at orphanages and childrens homes?
The culprits do not fear the laws as the IPC sections are weak and not specific enough,leaving room for the accused to escape; like the Duncan Grant case,where the two were acquitted by HC on grounds that the statements of victims were not completely reliable. Many times,the police officers are ignorant and do not include relevant sections. The police should be sensitized. For this,many NGOs in the city have started a programme for police officers.