164 'mafia-run' children's homes shut down
The state government finally cast aside the kid gloves yesterday and cancelled licences of 39 children’s homes, which, apart from 350 others, were severely panned in a recent report by Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR).
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 Marathwada region.
According to the study, kids in most of these homes are compelled to live under ‘unhygienic, inhuman and indecent conditions’. Many of these establishments were allegedly set up with the help of political connections. In most cases this was found to be a modus operandi to form societies/trusts and grab government funds.
The government action yesterday takes the number of such homes that have been forced to shut down in recent times to 164. However, authorities appeared to have lost their vim subsequent to revoking permits of 70 of these establishments in the last week of September.
After MiD DAY revealed the contents of the report on October 4 (‘Govt audit blows lid off children’s homes mafia’) the state constituted as many as 98 teams comprising officials from the department of women and child development. The mandate given to the groups — each headed by a senior department official, with two members from the district where they will conduct visits — is to check the food, clothing and shelter being offered to the children, their health, condition of the buildings, kitchens and surroundings, etc.
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.
The MSCPCR report 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 had 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.
Speaking after the release of Maharashtra Nutrition Survey Report at Sahyadri state guesthouse, Malabar Hill yesterday, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan conceded that permission in bulk was given in particular districts, but said the government has taken serious view of the MSCPCR report and has decided to cancel authorisations of many of these establishments. He also maintained that the ongoing probe would continue.
When asked about the purpose of a separate inquiry as the report by a quasi-judicial body like MSCPCR was already with the government, the CM said it would not be appropriate to order closure of these establishments without such a probe.
His attention was also drawn towards the allegation that a number of officials from the women and child development department got a number of these homes sanctioned for themselves and their cronies. Chavan assured he would look into the issue and how such homes were allowed to open was a matter for investigation.