“May I ask the honourable member a question? He has children. Has he been to the Child Care Institution in his area?” Shiv Sena MP Anandrao Adsul was speechless when Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi asked him this question. Adsul had raised a question on the safety of children in government-run Child Care Institutions (CCIs) and day care centres. “And, if he has not, then how can he say that other people do not?” Gandhi asked. The MP just smiled.
Many MPs may have missed this scene amid the din, with protesting AIADMK, TDP and Congress MPs shouting slogans in the well. The minister told the Lok Sabha that she had been writing to all MPs if they could consider themselves as the head of their constituency and go to CCIs and day care centres to see if they are running properly.
Adsul asked whether the government would formulate guidelines to ensure adequate safety, minimum standard of living conditions and periodic inspections of hostels. The minister said: “Whether we make rules for child hostels or make rules for CCIs, who will implement the rules? I have written again and again to every MP that if they consider themselves the head of their constituency, then they should be going to each of these institutions. We have given a list to everyone. They should go to the institutions, do spot checks and find out what is going wrong. I can sit here and do an after-check,” she said.
Gandhi said her ministry had warned the state government on Muzaffarpur, where a child care centre is under investigation for sexual abuse of inmates. “We warned the state government six months earlier that something was going wrong in this CCI. They did nothing. We asked the state NCPCR to check. They checked and wrote a report that yeh bahut hi kharab hain… Chhe mahine ke liye kuch nahin hua. Neither did the MP check nor the MLAs, and ultimately it turned out to be such terrible suffering to the children.”
Gandhi advised that MPs should ask MLAs for their support to check such centres instead of waiting for the district collector or district magistrate to check. “If you have been to the CCI and you treat those children in your constituency like you treat your children, then every MP will do it,” she said.