Day-care horror in Kharghar: Officials sitting on creche safety norms for 3 years

The department had come up with safety guidelines for playschools three years ago but officials seem to have no memory of this

Purva playschool and nursery
Purva playschool and nursery

Child abuse is no kidding matter, but the authorities don’t seem to have the time to take it seriously.

The entire city is reeling from shock after hearing of the brutal manner in which an ayah at a day-care centre in Kharghar thrashed a 9-month-old baby, but this is hardly the first such incident. In fact, after a string of such brutalities against kids in the past, the Women and Child Development (WCD) department had in 2013 issued a set of safety guidelines for day-care centres. As the Kharghar incident proves, however, irresponsible crèche employees continue to play with the lives of children.

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CCTV grabs show how Ritisha was brutally manhandled
CCTV grabs show how Ritisha was brutally manhandled

But if you’re waiting for WCD to take action, don’t hold your breath. How can they, when the officials have no memory of ever issuing the safety guidelines?

Memory loss
mid-day approached WCD officials to question them about the Kharghar incident and to ask if any action had been taken based on the 2013 regulations, but one official after another kept saying that they had no memory of the guidelines at all.

“The guidelines were formulated a long time ago and we have many things to take care of, so it may have slipped our mind,” said one senior official off the record.

mid-day also contacted WCD commissioner KM Nagargoje, who also seemed unaware of the guidelines initially. He later responded: “I will look into it and will take action against such centres.”

Trigger incidents
There were two episodes in particular which led to mounting pressure on the authorities to start regulating the day-care industry. In 2012, once again in Kharghar, a four-year-old girl fell from the balcony of a crèche on the 10th floor. The following year, Pune was rocked by the horrific story of an 11-month-old boy who was beaten mercilessly by a caretaker.

Read Story: Navi Mumbai: Maid kicks and fractures 9-month-old baby's head in Kharghar day-care

The same year, the WCD issued a list of 31 recommendations to regulate day-care centres. As per the guidelines, all centres were supposed to get a mandatory licence from WCD and maintain basic facilities like sanitation and clean drinking water. Right now, anyone can open a crèche. Most importantly, there were several guidelines for hiring employees who work with children (see box). According to WCD officials, however, the guidelines were put in the cold storage because there was little to no response from the public.

Expert speak
Dr Anuradha Sahasrabudhe, director of Dnyana Devi Childline, Pune, said, “Childline has dealt with several cases where caretakers have physically and sexually abused kids. For over two decades, we demanded legislation to regulate crèches for children and, finally in 2013, such guidelines were made. But nothing came of it. Currently, anybody can operate day-care centres.”

She added, “It is horrible that WCD is not aware about their own guidelines. They have not even offered any clarity on whether they are responsible for such matters or whether it is the education department.”

CM’s assurances
The parents of the abused nine-month-old girl in Kharghar wrote to CM Devendra Fadnavis about the incident. Yesterday, they also met him. The CM assured them that the matter would be taken up in court on a fast track. He also instructed the authorities to bring all childcare, crèches, playschools and day-care centres under the regulation of an umbrella body very soon after consulting the Child And Women Development ministry.

Some of the guidelines
>> All day-care centres must hold licence from the Women and Child Development department.
>> Staffers should preferably be women.
>> All employees must be made to go through mandatory training to work with children.
>> Those having nursing training should be preferred.
>> There should be one employee for every five kids.
>> An injured child should immediately be taken to a nearby hospital.
>> Staffers themselves should undergo a medical check-up every three months.

Rs 25k
Suggested fine for centres that do not follow guidelines

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