Govt audit blows lid off children's homes mafia
'Mafia' set up these establishments across the state to usurp government grants, reveals report submitted by state child rights commission; many of them were being run as hostels and coaching centre
Corruption is now so rampant in every sphere in this country that it has become a child’s play for the perpetrators. MiD DAY has learnt that the Congress-led Democratic Front government is sitting on a sensational report submitted by State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, which has incisive details of wrongdoings unearthed during recent visits at children’s homes in Maharashtra. The five-part report, particulars of which are in possession of this newspaper, deals with five districts — Parbhani, Nanded, Beed, Latur and Osmanabad, all from the Marathwada region. With scathing remarks against officials of the women and child development department and local child welfare committees, the commission has recommended immediate closure of 389 children homes with penal and legal action against those who connived to operate them.
The Government of India in a letter on February 25, 2011 illustrated that Maharashtra has 1,194 children’s homes, which is nearly equal to the total number of such institutions in the rest of the country. However, many of these homes are being used for educational purposes and the children sheltered are not those genuinely in need of care and protection. Most of these are situated in the Marathwada region — a tiny taluka such as Gangakhed in Parbhani district has 17. According to officials, many of these homes are run like business ventures to pocket government allowances.
The state government allocates Rs 635 per month for every child in these homes, apart from Rs 315 as supportive grant. Not even half of this amount is actually spent on the needy kids.
In fact, children in most of these homes are compelled to live under ‘unhygienic, inhuman and indecent conditions’, stated the commission.
The agency submitted its report to the state government two months ago but has failed to stir up any action so far. When contacted, minister for women and child development Varsha Gaikwad told this newspaper, “The state government has forwarded the report to the state commissioner for women and child development, asking for scrutinisation and initiation of appropriate action.”
But sources from the department say the government is taking its own time even though the commission has recommended immediate action against people involved in operating these homes. “How can the commissioner for women and child welfare be asked to take measures when the homes were sanctioned by the government in 2007 and 2008?” asked an official, who wished to remain anonymous.
The report reveals that most of the trusts/registered societies engaged in running the children’s homes are from Latur and Osmanabad, with names and details changed from trust to trust. Several of these people are members of one or two families. For instance, one Balaji Mustakwad manages as many as 27 of these establishments along with his relatives.
Most of these children’s homes were set up following bulk approval granted by the state in 2007 and 2008. A single file in 2008 endorsed 527 of these institutions, which, however, did not have the mandatory approval of the state finance department. Authorisation was yielded
without issuing any advertisement, inviting applications, procuring any survey report, judicial scrutiny and fixing any criterion. Many of these children’s homes were established with the help of political connections. In most of the cases this was found to be a modus operandi to form societies/ trusts and grab government funds.
The commission also points towards possible existence of an unholy nexus between members/chairmen of child welfare committees and owners of the children’s homes. There’s suspicion that a criminal conspiracy was committed by representatives of the district women and child development department, officials at Mantralaya and owners of the homes to misappropriate state funds.
The report has recommended civil and criminal proceedings against officers responsible for giving permissions flouting rules and procedures, and action against children’s home mafias ‘who should be booked under stringent provisions of penal laws’. It has also suggested steps under Section 31, 32, 33 and 34 of Juvenile Justice Act against officers along with committee members and chairmen of child welfare committees, and owners of these organisations.
Also, state funds should be recovered from people engaged in running such establishments, the report advocates.
When contacted by MiD DAY, A N Tripathi, secretary of Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, merely said he did his job as per the guidelines and it was up to the government to act on the report.
The inquiry of children’s homes was conducted under section 13(1) & 14 of the Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 by the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
Number of homes in 5 districts the State Child Rights Commission has recommended immediate closure of
Number of children’s homes in the state, which is almost equal to the number of such homes in the rest of the country
>> No. of children’s homes — 71 (out of these, 70 are being run by voluntary organisations).
>> Commission recommends cancellation of 60.
>> Hearing conducted by the commission at Parbhani on June 21, 2011.
>> Three homes run under one roof ‘Yashomangal Karyalaya’, which has no compound. #Bathrooms and toilets found to be extremely filthy and not easily accessible to children. #Boys and girls stay in the same building, which is in violation of Juvenile Justice Act, 2006.
>> Balaji Mustakwad, who runs as many as 27 children’s homes in Marathwada region, is involved in running seven such homes in Parbhani alone.
>> Only one children’s home at Palam in Parbhani district found being run satisfactorily as per the norms.
>> No. of children’s homes – 120 (all run by voluntary organisations).
>> Commission recommends cancellation of 98 .
>> Hearing conducted at Nanded on July 9, 2012.
>> Many of the office bearers and staffers of the homes were unable to tell the exact number of boys and girls staying there.
>> When commission official visited one Mamta Balakashram, they found students of Std IX and X studying in nearby schools staying there, using the facility as a hostel. They were paying Rs 9,000 for receiving coaching for Maths and Science. When asked whether their parents knew they were staying in a children’s home meant for orphans, they replied in the negative.
>> 10 students were kept in a room measuring 10 feet by 12 feet.
>> The commission also found a residential building being used as a children’s home and many of the girls were willing to return to their parents.
>> Number of children’s homes – 125 (of these, 124 are being run by voluntary organisations).
>> Commission recommends cancellation of 101.
>> Hearing conducted on June 22, 2011.
>> Three children’s homes were being run by Balaji Mustakwad. During the commission’s visit to one Baal Sadan, run by Sudhakarrao Naik Magasvargiya Samaj Kalyan Mandal, it was informed that the children were away on summer vacation. The home did not have any infrastructure, proper bathrooms and toilets. At most of the children homes in the district the children were admitted by their parents for better education.
>> Number of children’s homes — 109 (all being run by voluntary organisations).
>> Commission recommends cancellation of 54.
>> Hearing conducted at Aurangabad on January 10 and 11, 2012.
>> At most of the children’s homes, boys and girls kept in the same building.
>> Many of the establishments did not have infrastructure.
>> Some of the students from nearby schools were staying here.
>> One of the children’s homes situated in Harangul, near Latur, is in a farmhouse owned by the trustee. He accepted that at night the children do not stay there and return to their parents.
>> Commission observed how such homes were being allowed to run despite this being a big scam.
>> Number of children’s homes — 80.
>> Commission recommends cancellation of 76.
>> This is the only district among the five where Suryakant Kulkarni, the then member of the commission, submitted his report on 21 children’s homes. Other team members who were assigned the job did not tender any.
>> President of a children’s home found to be illiterate; he was unable to put up a sign. Bogus records were found at many children’s homes, besides inadequate staff, no provision for essential facilities for inmates, filthy toilets and bathrooms, unhygienic conditions.
(Even as the report gives credit to Surayakant Kulkarni, the former member of the commission denied having drafted the account. When contacted, he said, the particular study was completed by the commission along with those from other districts of the state.)