Wednesday, February 27, 2019
BHRC requested for remedial measures for State’s 110 social welfare institutions
Hon’ble Justice Mandhata Singh
Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC)
9, Bailey Road,
Subject- Seeking recommendations for systemic and structural reforms, civil remedial measures and legal steps for humanizing State’s 110 social welfare institutions
With reference to the 96 page long “Report on Social Audit of the Institutions under Social Welfare Department, Government of Bihar” run or supported by the Department of Social Welfare, Government of Bihar submitted by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai submitted to the Department, this is to submit that it has been almost one year since the acceptance of the report but the condition of 110 social welfare institutions across 38 districts in Bihar including 21 specialised adoption agency, 21 short stay homes for women, 5 old age homes, 13 rehabilitation centres for destitute, 27 children homes, 8 open shelters, 11 observation homes, 1 Uttar Raksha Grih, 1 special home and 2 homes for children with mental retardation remains dreary, bleak and depressing.
I am enclosing/attaching some parts of the report which are in public domain to draw your attention towards the dire need for systemic and structural reforms and civil remedial measures for humanizing these welfare institutions and for the protection of their inmates to make ‘Dignity’, ‘Freedom’ and ‘Empathy’, the central aspects of the functioning of these institutions. The 30 pages out of the 96 page long TISS report are available at the website of State Government’s Department of Social Welfare at this url: http://socialwelfare.bih.nic.in/News/NB-01-16-08-2018.pdf
It has been submitted in the report that “….the purpose of the audit was to help in effective planning to improve the quality of services and care and enhance the levels of accountability….” It is evident from the report that it dealt with unsettling questions regarding the functioning of these institutions and their pattern of interaction with their managing heads and the State. According to Shri Atul Prasad, Principal Secretary, Department of Social Welfare, Government of Bihar, “….the report also reminds us of certain grave concerns that we cannot afford to ignore or deny anymore….” He wrote, “The decision to conduct the social audit of these institutions was prompted by “….a series of incidents that came to light, at different points, all in quick succession….” He hoped to “….build on this report and develop our institutions into safe and caring spaces, facilitating individual’s growth and exit from the cycle of vulnerability”. But there is nothing in public domain to suggest that inmates of these social welfare institutions have exited from the admitted “cycle of vulnerability”.
I submit that pages 52-55 of the 96 page long TISS report deals with “Grave Concerns: Institutions
Requiring Immediate Attention” lists down the names of institutions along with the nature of abuse reported to be carried out at these institutions which amounts to moral degradation of humanity in violation of Juvenile Justice Act. The following institutions are crying for Commission’s urgent attention:
1. Serious physical violence and sexual abuse by residents of the Boys’ Children Home in Motihari run by ‘Nirdesh’, NGO. The older boys were clubbed in for accommodation with the younger boys. Boys from both the groups reported sexual abuse and violence.
2. The Boys’ Children Home in Bhagalpur being run by ‘Rupam Pragati Samaj Samiti’, NGO was also a site of grave abuse. The complaint box which has letters written by residents provides written record of physical and verbal abuse by RTO, Ms Rekha.
3. The Munger Boys’ Children Home run by ‘Panaah’ was being run from a building meant for Observation Homes. It was also run from the same premises as the Observation Home in Munger and had the same barrack like infrastructure. The boys were forced work for the Superintendent and on refusal were beaten up. One of the older boys suffering from hearing and speech impairment had a 3 inch long scar on his cheek due to assault by the Superintendent. A 7 years old boy, suffering from hearing and speech impairment was deprived of his hearing aid.
4. The Boys’ Children Home in Gaya run by ‘DORD’, NGO always kept the boys locked up. It is being run in a custodial and exploitative manner.
5. In the Government run Observation Home in Araria, boys are facing brutal violence from the security guard appointed by the Bihar Police. Superintendent of the Observation Home was aware of the goings but he expressed his helplessness.
6. The residents of Short-Stay Home in Kaimur run by ‘Gram Swaraj Sewa Sansthan’ reported to be facing sexual abuse by the security guard who manages the day to day affairs of this Home.
7. Sewa Kutir, Gaya run by ‘Metta Buddha Trust’ is a site of painful conditions of the residents who are suffering from mental illnesses.
8. Kaushal Kutir run by Don Bosco Tech Society is a site of physical and verbal abuse against bith men and women. People were brought here on the pretext of work and made to stay for long.
9. Three specialized adoption agencies-Patna’s Nari Gunjan, Madhubani’s ‘RVESK’ and Kaimur’s ‘Gyan Bharti’ are running in a manner which is life threatening to residents including infants and young children. The children were found hungry and living in unhygienic conditions.
10. Residents of Short Stay Home in Patna run by ‘IKARD’ reported violence. Girls not being allowed to contact their families. Two staffers were reported to be physically and verbally abusive. One of the girls committed suicide; another lost her mental balance due to the trauma she suffered over there.
11. Short Stay Home in Motihari run by ‘Sakhi’ NGO is a site of physical violence against mentally ill women and girls. The counselor was indulging in violence. Girls not being given sanitary pad regularly.
12. Short Stay Home in Munger run by ‘Novelty Welfare Society’ NGO denied clothes. Their bathrooms did not have latches from inside. A mentally ill woman was found lockd up.
13. At Short Stay Home in Madhepura run by ‘Mahila Chetna Vias Mandal’ NGO, women/girls were denied cots and mattresses. They were sleeping on the floor. One girl was reportedly brought forcibly and was neither allowed to leave nor call her family.
14. ‘Sewa Kutir’, Muzaffarpur run by ‘Om Sai Foundation’ is a site of physical violence and abuse against its residents. They were brought on the pretext of giving work. The documents of this NGO were not made available to the audit team.
I submit that the concerned authorities under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 are yet to take required action with regard to offences committed by the above mentioned welfare institutions.
I submit that despite its limitations the TISS report is quite useful in indicating the malaise that afflicts these institutions but a comprehensive assessment of all these 110 institutions can only be done by a public institution like Department of Social Welfare. The Commission may ask the Department to submit a report to the Commission as to how many Shelter Homes in the State are being were and are run by NGOs, which were granted recognition by the State Government and who are given financial assistance by the Government and the audit reports. It may also be asked to submit a report on the particulars in respect of the Government run Shelter Homes in the State.
The Commission may ask the resident editors of all newspapers, news channels and news sites to submit their content analysis of relevant reportage with regard to these 110 institutions and instruct relevant reporters to make written and oral submissions before you.
The Commission may ask the District Magistrates to make written and oral submissions with regard to these 110 institutions.
I submit that the TISS team members who conducted the social audit and prepared the report may be asked to submit their assessment of the current situation in comparison to what they found during their social audit work in order to reach conclusions about improvement, if any. The team members comprised of seven members namely, Ms. Sunita Biswas, Mr. Apurva, Vivek, Mr. Nilesh Kamble, Mr. Asif Iqbal, Mr. Prem Narayan Jat and Mr. Qayum Masumi besides Mr. Mohd Tarique.
In view of the above, the Commission is under logical compulsion to make the public institutions accountable and to make such recommendations as it deems fit to improve these institutions into world class public institutions so that they become safe, caring spaces providing relief to residents suffering from structural deprivation and ensure their exit from the cycle of vulnerability.
Thanking you in anticipation
Gopal Krishna, LLB, PhD
Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL)E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Smt Vandana Kini, Secretary, BHRC