New Delhi: The Haryana government has drawn the ire of the national child rights body for paying “scant regard” to its directives in a case of sexual abuse of inmates at a shelter home and submitting a “ridiculous” action taken report in connection with it.
Shanta Sinha, Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), warned of stringent action against officials for failing to furnish complete information regarding the Apna Ghar case and said state officials will be summoned again if they do not submit a proper status report.“We have issued several directives to the government to furnish the status reports on the case. The government responded just once and gave us a report, but it hardly addressed any of the issues we had raised. We have no other go but to summon state officials a second time,” Sinha told PTI.
Instances of sexual abuse and torture of inmates of Apna Ghar, a shelter home in Rohtak, came to light after a NCPCR team carried out a surprise raid on May 9 and rescued nearly 120 people, including children and women.
The scandal-hit home, being run by NGO Bharat Vikas Sangh, was sealed on 9 June, three days after Haryana Police DGP RS Dalal announced the constitution of a Special Investigative Team to probe the case.
NCPCR member Vinod Tikkoo, who was part of the team that raided Apna Ghar, described as “ridiculous” the Action Taken Report submitted by Haryana government as it does not even contain details like where the rescued children were send.
“The ATR they have submitted is nothing short of ridiculous. They are forcing us to take the matter to the court, and we have enough proof to show that we had written to them over a dozen times on the issue for the last one year, but all went unheeded,” Tikkoo said.
“Children cannot be treated like this. A child ought to be treated with respect and dignity as enshrined in the Constitution of India. The way things are coming out of the closet everyday, I would not be surprised if more shelter homes in the state are run this way,” Tikkoo told PTI.
Before summoning the officials, Sinha said, the NCPCR would write “one last strongly-worded letter” and if they continue to pay “scant regard to our directives then we will be forced to take strict measures”.
The statutory body had previously summoned the officials in May and a seven-member commission bench had held back-to-back hearings on 14 May and 15 May.
Noting that the case indicated an “administrative failure” from all sides, Sinha said the Haryana government had o “get its act together” and examine not just the home in question but all other homes and chalk out a plan to effectively monitor them.
“The Apna Ghar case shows an administrative failure from all sides, especially of the regulatory and monitoring officials in the women and child welfare department. They should have registered the home and sent a supervisor to check what was happening. There was an administrative failure at all levels,” she said.
She also expressed displeasure over the “callous way” the state government dealt with the inmates after the alleged scandal came to light.
“Many of the children in the home have been dispersed to other homes by officials, without checking the credibility of these homes. Plus, displacing the inmates all of a sudden and moving them to a new environment could adversely impact children,” Sinha claimed.
The government should have instead let the children stay in the same home and appointed a new administrator to monitor and manage its activities, she added.
To stave off a recurrence of what happened at Apna Ghar, Tikkoo advocated the need to set up State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights across the country to “closely monitor” if children’s
rights are violated.
“So far, 14 states have set up SCPCRs and we will vehemently take up the issue with the remaining states. Haryana has agreed to set up one too, but when and how they will do it remains to be seen,” he said.