Mumbai Mirror, March 8, 2013
A16-year-old mentally and physically disabled boy has been unable to find a home for the past three days, a month after he was found near Mumbai Central station by volunteers from the NGO Childline.
The severely malnourished, polio-afflicted, mentally disabled, deaf-and-mute boy had been abandoned by his family, the social workers who found him believe. He was admitted to Nair Hospital on February 3, and spent a month recuperating there.
Since March 4, social workers have taken him to five different homes, but have been turned away from each one. All five homes shielded themselves with their own interpretations of a Bombay High Court order that states that mentally disabled children should be kept in special homes. At the time of going to press, he was returning to Childline’s call centre at Nair Hospital, where he would spend another day.
After he was treated at Nair for a month, the hospital discharged him and asked Childline – which works with children and coordinates with various homes – to have him sent to a welfare home. On March 4, he was taken to Child Welfare Committee, a quasi-judicial authority that is supposed to look after children in need. Ideally, CWC is supposed to issue an order and find the child a place in one of the city’s many welfare homes. However, the boy, whose name is unknown, was turned down by CWC.
Usually, children found in such circumstances are first first to the Dongri children’s home and then to a home for children with special needs. CWC, however, refused to get him admitted to the Dongri home and told Childline to take him to a home for mentally disabled children instead. The reason CWC cited for this was their interpretation of a high court order, which states that mentally disabled children need to be put in special homes, and that such homes had been transferred from the state’s Women and Child Welfare Department to the Social Justice Department. Officials at CWC simply handed over a copy of the government resolution ordering the transfer, and asked the volunteers and the boy to leave.
Their next stop was at state-run home for the mentally disabled at Mankhurd. Here, too, the superintendent refused to take the child, again quoting the high court order. His interpretation of the order was that the home should not be overcrowded, and since it already over capacity, he could not take on one more child.
The boy was then brought back to Nair Hospital, where he was admitted for two days after Childline volunteers pleaded with hospital authorities. Two days later, Childline volunteers took him to Nagapad police station. Here, too, authorities refused to help. After spending five hours at the police station, where the child was pushed around by cops for ‘misbehaving’, he was taken back to Childline’s 10-ft x 10-ft call centre.
OnThursday,hewastakentoMissionaries of Charity, a home for mentally disabled children in Gorai. Here, hewasturneddownforwantofspace.
Mumbai Mirror contacted Dr Shaila Mhatre, chairperson of CWC, who said: “There is a high court order that such children should be kept in special homes. The court does not want them in ordinary homes, so we could not keep him at Umerkhadi (Dongri). Moreover, most homes for the mentally disable are full.” She added that most special homes refuse to take such children even if CWC orders them to do so. “We at CWC have now become strict about taking such children in homes for ordinary children. What do you expect CWC to do in such a case?”
Anil Gite, superintendent of the Mankhurd home, said, “I have been given orders that our home should notbeovercrowded.RightnowIhave twice the number of children than I ideally should.”
RD Shinde, secretary of the social justice department, was appalled on hearing about the case. “How does it matter which state department runs the home? The CWC and home superintendent should have admited the child immediately. I will see to it that such things are not repeated.”
Dr Harish Shetty, a member of a high-court-appointed committee for the welfare of mentally diabled children, said that the court’s order is being misunderstood. “The order does not say that CWC should reject kids or homes should turn them away just because they are overcrowded. The state has failed miserably in taking care of mentally disabled children. They are India’s unwanted children,” he said.
“The challenged 17-year-old, who is nobody’s child and whom no one wants to take care of, is representative of the situation of challenged, especially mentally challenged, children in India,” said Childline spokesperson Nishit Kumar.
“Childline is increasingly asked by young Indians to rescue/assist the extremely marginalised. However Childline is an emergency response service currently servicing over 4 million calls a year — we do not run shelters and after providing SOS attention, we link children to institutions that can rehabilitate them,” he said.
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