THE 240-odd children living in the Dongri observation home now may not have to move out of the city as directed by the Bombay High Court after it observed that the building was ‘not fit for human inhabitation’.
The observation home will instead receive additional funds from the Women and Child Development department of the Maharashtra government to make urgent structural repairs and improve facilities provided for the inmates.
In its order issued on October 29, the Bombay High Court had directed the authorities to shift the children in the observation home as well as those in conflict with law to other observation homes before November 17. The orders had been given on the basis of a report presented by the principal magistrate of the Juvenile Justice Board, which had noted ‘a very sorry state of affairs regarding the condition with respect to toilet facilities, food and other facilities’.
However, in a subsequent hearing of the suo motu public interest litigation on December 15, the authorities of the children’s home submitted a report about the facilities provided for the children and the bench stated that the condition of the home will be closely observed. The observation home officials will prepare a day-to-day report on the improvements in the condition of the home. The next hearing is scheduled for January 25.
Citing financial constraints, a senior official at the observation home, requesting anonymity, said that the funds from the Women and Child Development department were not sufficient to maintain a good standard of food and other amenities. “The government is currently sanctioning Rs 635 per month when we need at least Rs 2,000 for a comfortable existence. Besides, where will we send these children? There is no space for them in any of the homes in the city. They will then have to be sent to homes in either Pune or Bhiwandi,” he said.
On November 23, principal secretary of Women and Child Development department, Sanjay Kumar visited the home to inspect the condition of the building and its facilities. He said that the department will sanction additional funds to help with the repair work.
“We want to improve the condition of the home and will give financial help for the same. The court can then decide,” he said. The additional funds will be used for painting, repairing and constructing new toilets, repairing the lobby and improving the aesthetics of the 35-year-old building, which will be made child-friendly.
Kumar stated that the department has chalked out a roadmap for the enhancement of the Dongri observation home broadly under improvement of physical infrastructure, institutional strengthening of the home, health and nutrition, medical assistance, development and care as well as security and protection. The plan also includes Aadhar-linked biometric attendance. In order to make the home child-friendly, the department of Women and Child Development plans to create theme-based wall paintings and will coordinate with civic schools and colleges to do the work. The home will also develop a kitchen garden within the premises.
Besides the repairs, there is a long standing plan to construct a new building within the premises for which about Rs 2 crores have been sanctioned by the department. Though the amount has been sanctioned several months ago, the public works department is yet to start the construction work.