PUCL Bulletin, August 2001

U.P. PUCL
Shockng human rights violations in juvenile home

'Bonded' Labourers, Suspected Sexual Abuse, Suppression of Post Mortem Report'

Government Juvenile Home and Government Remand Home, Ram Nagar, Varanasi have been established for orphans below the age of 16 years and children below the age of 16 who are engaged in criminal activities. The State government, for their reform, education, and rehabilitation established these Homes. The PUCL Varanasi, U.P., was receiving complaints about the irregularities in administration, inhuman treatment of the children, and their exploitation. One young boy had died in suspicious circumstances in December 2000 and some children were reported to have escaped through the ventilator.

The PUCL obtained permission from the District Magistrate to send an enquiry team to look into the affairs of the Homes. Permission was granted on January 11, 2001 and the following people were appointed on the Committee: SarvaShri Gurinder Singh, President Varanasi PUCL; Tanvir Ahmed Siddiqui, advocate; AK Mukherjee, Retd. Principal Harishchandra College; Abdul Sattar, Advocate; Ms. Ranjana Gaud; and Susdhanshu Agrawal, Advocate. Shri Sattar could not participate due to some personnel reasons.

The committee was to look into the following questions.

  • Are the children in the Home getting food, clothes, and medical facilities as prescribed?
  • Are the children of the Homes being exploited and harassed emotionally and physically?
  • What were the circumstances in which Irfan, an inmate of the Home, died? What were the steps taken by the administration?


The Superintendent of the Homes, Shri VL Yadav, raised some objections on the visit of the Committee. Finally the committee was able to visit the Homes on February 17, 2001. The Committee talked to concerned officials and workers. It talked to the children at length. It also obtained the Panchnaamaa and the post mortem report on Irfan who had died on December 15, 2000 in suspicious circumstances.

The Superintendent of the youth Home, Shri VL Yadav, provided information about the number of children, number of workers, and their responsibilities, and the economic status of the institution.
The institution houses orphaned children and children with criminal background together. Initially the children are put up in the Remand Home and their parents are informed. If the parents don't turn up to take the children home, they are sent to the youth Home. Children up to the age of 8 years are housed in the Remand Home and children above this age are sent to the Juvenile Home. Every child is entitled to 180 grams of rice / flour and 58 grams Dal. They are served food up to 9.30 in the morning and after that the daily routine starts.

They are again served food from 8 to 9.30 pm. According to rules they should be given lunch at 1.30 pm. The expenses allotted, per child, are Rs. 500/- per month. Apart from food they are given clothes, chappals, soap for bathing and washing, oil, etc. The institute has two teachers and they teach from class 1 to class 8. The children are also given vocational training. Children below the age of 14 years are not engaged in carpet weaving. It was not clear if children below this age were allowed in woodwork, sewing. The Superintendent informed us that no unnatural death had taken place. Irfan had died before the present Superintendent had taken over. But he informed that Irfan had fallen ill and was treated by the nurse compounder. He was taken to Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital and then to Kabir Chaura where he expired. He was reported to have died of Tetanus. He had come here on transfer from Kanpur. He could not say if the child had internal injury.

Seven children had run away. They could do so because of the negligence of the guard. We were told that these were children who had been rounded up from various railway stations. These were engaged there in sweeping, shoe shining, etc, from which they used to earn money. Here they were deprived of that and they wanted to go back. We were told that children, who preferred a peaceful and orderly life, did not run away. Those who do not like discipline they try to escape. The boundary wall of the juvenile home is 5-foot high, which can be easily jumped over.

There is a separate budget for books and it is not included in the expenditure per head (Rs. 500/-). Special grants are provided by the government for construction, for beddings in the Remand Home, and repair of rooms. The Act does not provide sleeping rooms. For every 10 students there is one room, reception area, and dining room.

There is no Court and no room for the Superintendent. The Act provides a Superintendent but the department has created a post of Assistant Superintendent only. In the Remand Home two children sleep on one wooden bed. The money for food comes from the Treasury through the district Magistrate. Funds for other expenses have to be provided for in the annual budget of the government.
The children get milk only for tea. There is generally a shortage of vegetables in the Juvenile Home, but not in the Remand Home. There is a post of a physical training instructor, which is lying vacant after the retirement of the last incumbent. The children look after the farms of the Home.

The medical officer, Dr. RS Prasad, of the Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, pays a weekly visit. He is paid a monthly honorarium of Rs. 300/-. Nurse and compounder live on the campus. The Superintendent also lives in the Remand Home.

At the time of the escape of the children and the death of Irfan the Superintendent was Shri Sita Ram Shastri. He was suspended after these events. Whenever some guardians come to meet their ward they have to make an entry in a register.

The committee talked to the children also. A child, Lovkush, told the committee that he was a resident of Allahabad and his mother's name was Lalmani Devi. At the time of the evidence he was engaged in grinding spices. He was sent here from Lucknow. Before that he was at Calcutta. The Calcutta police had rounded him up. He told us that Vasudev Bhai teaches them how to cook roties. The children start cooking roties at 6 in the morning. Every child gets 2 pairs of shirts and knickers, and one vest. During the winters they were given a full sweater and a blanket. He wanted to return to his home. He was told by the administration not to talk to anyone. If any inmate commits a mistake, he is beaten. Vasudev Bhai twists the ear, and tells them to sit on the haunches, pass the arms through the legs, and touch the ears. (Murgaa Banaanaa). They were served snacks at 8 in the morning and food at 10.30. Snacks include tea and two pieces of bread. He told us that he goes to the class and if he bunks one Bhaisaab gives a beating. He has come here after Irfan's death and did not know anything either about that or about the escape of the children.

He also told us that they cut the crops in the farms, weeded out the grass and sow seeds. Eat food at 6 in the evening and go to sleep between 8 and 9. Some children watch TV also. He also told us that Santosh goes to the house of 'Baraa saahab' to work there. Santosh is speech disadvantaged. He looks after the cow. He is an old inmate. The children also pull the rickshaw of the home. The rickshaw is also used to take sick children to the hospital.
Another child to whom the committee spoke was Safiqul Aslam, S/o Safihul Haq, resident of village Aathi of Golpada. He was here for 3 years. He was picked up at Allahabad.

Safiq is learning to weave rugs and sew. He also cooks. He is a student of class one. He also works in the fields. He said that every day 10-12 children cook food. He also expressed the desire to go back home.

Twelve-year-old Papraja is from A.P. He was picked up from Shahjahanpur in U.P. and was living here for the past two years. He said he was engaged in weaving rugs. He also attends classes but he was told that he would be taught when he has learnt to work on the rugs. He said that if anyone committed a mistake or damaged something he was beaten with a stick. 23 children sleep in his room. He said that smaller children occupied separate rooms. Formerly, 'Baraa sahab' used to take him to work at his house. Now only Santosh goes there to work. He said that he knew Irfan but was not aware why he was taken to the hospital. Papraja said that he had fever at that time and he had not seen Irfan's dead body. The children who had run away had escaped from the latrine. They were 7 in number.

Another boy, about 8 years old, Ganesh from Mumbai, told us that he was picked up at the Varanasi railway station. He told us that his father was in the railways and worked at Mumbai station. He had told these facts to everyone but he was not sent back. His father's name is Sambha but he did not know the full address. His father was engaged in breaking stones. He said that once a truckload of clothes had come but these were not distributed. He said that Irfan was from room No.3 and the doctor said that he had developed Tetanus. He started having pain at 3 in the morning. The doctor had asked all of us whether he was beaten. He had injury on his neck but we did not know the reason. We were afraid because Bhai Saab had told us that if anyone revealed that he had beaten him on his neck, then he would beat us all. Actually Bhai Saab had beaten him. After the incident Bhai Saab was transferred. He said that the children are not released from here. When they complete their term, it is extended. But they are never released. He worked on rugs, in carpentry class, and in the fields.

He said he was given chappals, shirt, pants, and vest 3 years ago. He also received one sweater.

The committee talked to 8 other children of the Juvenile Home. After this the committee visited the Remand Home. Ravi of village Majhbara of district Mau is 15 years of age. He told the committee that he used to sell Gutkha in the trains. He had come there about a week ago. His father was a farmer. He wanted to go back home. Another boy, Yogesh, was from village Sultanpur, district, Gazipur in U.P. He said that his father's name is Sheebu. He had come to Varanasi with his father to buy medicines. They got separated in the train. He said that he was a student when he had come here. Siyaram of the Remand Home caught him at the station. He had given him the information about his family. His uncle, Deep Nayan, lived in Varanasi. He had not yet been produced before the magistrate.

The Committee noticed that the statements of the Superintendent, the workers, and the inmates of the Juvenile Home and the Remand Home were generally on the same lines. The children, more or less, had said identical things about food, clothes, administration, etc. It appeared that they were briefed in advance as to what they were expected to say. Still some alarming facts emerged. For example the Superintendent himself had said that the children were given 180 grams of rice / flour, and 58 grams of Dal and this was according to the standard prescribed. For snacks 58 grams were provided for two times. Clearly this was insufficient for children of 14 or 15 years. Children of 10 to 12 years of age or less had to get up at 6 in the morning, even in winter, and cook. Children were found grinding spices. Children and others had said that the inmates had to do everything in the fields. Santosh, who was speech disadvantaged, was used at the residence of the officials regularly. This was as if he was a bonded labourer. He had to prepare cow feed, clean cow dung, and fetch water for the family. His evidence could not be taken because he could not speak. Every child of the home had said these things about him.

The Committee had visited the home in the winter month of February but the members did not see any child wearing woolens, every one wore a shirt or a t-shirt. All of them were bare foot. This was also revealed from their statements that when they had come to the home they were given shirt, pant, vest, and chappals. After that no one got anything else.

Even after repeated attempts the medical officer of the Remand Home could not be made available. The inmates of the Juvenile Home had told the committee that for medical problems the compounder or nurse on duty prescribed medicines. The committee could not confirm whether the doctor paid regular visits.

According to the Superintendent, the government gives Rs. 500/- per month per child but looking at the food and clothes given to them every day it was clear that they were supplied neither sufficient food nor clothing. The post mortem report of the child of the Juvenile Home who had died on December 15, 2000 clearly said that he was of "poor built, poor nourished". This points to possibility that much less than Rs. 500/- per child per month was being spent and the inmates were compelled to live in inhuman conditions and were not fed properly.

30-35 students per rooms slept on wooden beds. Two children on one bed with one blanket were observed, there was only a durree on the wooden bed. It would not be wrong to say that they were half-naked and like underfed cattle. Latrines were overflowing and there were no arrangements for their cleaning. After the escape of some boys from the ventilator of the latrine, one latrine was closed down. Now only one latrine was available. About 150 children used this and there were no proper arrangements for water. Nothing could be more inhuman.

In the field of education it was found that mostly children of 10-12 years of age were found in the rug-weaving centre. They may be weavers or learners but this was clearly in contravention of child labour laws. It is known that for such conditions and actions the government prosecuted the private manufacturers but in these government institutions these helpless children were being used in the same manner. The administration and the labour department were turning a blind eye to this.

It was also not clear whether the students attended the classes regularly and completed their assignments; also, whether they were supplied with books, exercise books, etc. For 150 children for classes 1-8, there were only 2 teachers.

As far as the question of death of Irfan, an inmate of the Juvenile Home, is concerned it is a serious and mysterious incident. It was in no way an accidental or natural death. The Superintendent had said that he had died of Tetanus. The PUCL team, with great difficulty, could get the Panchnaamaa and the Post mortem report. The facts revealed by these are alarming and lay bare the story of oppression in the Government Juvenile Home. Besides "poor built, poor nourished", there was a 13 centimeter long coagulated blood and spine and spinal cord were broken.

The report had said that a serious injury in the spine and spinal cord was the cause of the death. We were told by the administration that the only witness was Ganesh who told us that the injury on Irfan's neck was due to the beating received from Bhai Saahab. Bhai Saahab was very hefty. Now he has been transferred. Here the role of the medical officer also comes under suspicion. After the report of the injury, what medical aid was given? Because of lack of proper medical facility at Ram Nagar medical hospital he was taken to Kabir Chaura Hospital. Here he was not under the treatment of some specialists.

Why was he not sent from the Ram Nagar Hospital to the nearby hospital of the BHU where the specialists could treat him? To answer these questions the medical officer of the Ram Nagar Hospital, who is attached to the Juvenile Home did not meet the Committee. There is another serious point. The Panchnaamaa report and the report of the district magistrate is dated December 15, 2000. The Panchnaamaa was prepared at 5 pm on December 15 at the Kabir Chaura hospital by the Deputy Collector, Varanasi, Shri Maurya. According the Panchnaamaa in the column of injuries Shri Maurya has noted that the dead body was observed closely from the front and the back.

There was no apparent injury. This report of the Deputy Collector is totally at variance with the post mortem report, which speaks of spinal cord injury and an injury of 13x5 centimeter on the right side of the neck. The magistrate appears to have shown no interest in the reasons of the death of the child and could not see the 13 centimeters long injury.

Another point is that his anus was found to be unnaturally dilated where two fingers could enter easily. This is a serious and important fact. How the opening of the anus of this child became dilated? The possibility of unnatural sexual exploitation of the child cannot be ruled out.

When the members of the Committee met the children, the kids in the Remand Home grabbed the hands of the members and entreated abjectly crying out, "uncle, uncle, send us to our home. Inform our family members or phone them". Some boys gave us the phone numbers and addresses. When we confronted the Superintendent with these facts and asked him as to why their families were not contacted to hand over the children, we were told not to be taken in by the children, they were expert liars, and this was all a drama.
In conclusion and after a serious analysis of the visit, the following facts stand out to indicate that the children in the government Juvenile home and Remand Home at Ram Nagar are living in lamentable conditions.

They were under-fed and thus are suffering from malnutrition. The officials used the children as domestic servants; the pathetic case of speech disadvantaged, Santosh, haunts the Committee. The children are made to work on the farm, for weaving carpets, for pulling rickshaw, for cooking, for grinding spices, etc. All these are against law. The children were found, in winter month of February, in only a shirt or a t-shirt and bare foot. The death of one Irfan and the escape of 7 children after breaking a ventilator in the latrine show that their suffering had crossed the limits. Even after a lapse of two months, the children had not been produced in the Juvenile Court, nor were their families informed.
The PUCL investigation team considers that this is a serious case of oppression and deprivation of human rights of the children. It considers it to be a fit case to be taken up immediately by the National Human Rights Commission.

Demands

  1. There should be a high level enquiry into inhuman treatment and of outrages committed on the children. Those found guilty should be severely punished.

  2. The Juvenile Act needs to be brought upto date.

  3. The National Human Rights Commission should look into the circumstances in which Irfan had died and those responsible for his maltreatment and for negligence in proper medical aid should be punished. Action should also be taken for suppressing the true facts indicated in the post mortem report.

  4. The family addresses of the children in the Juvenile Home and Remand Home should be checked and their families should be informed. This should be done under the supervision for either the Juvenile Court or the District Magistrate.

  5. It should be made a rule that the children who are brought to the Remand Home must be produced before the Juvenile Court.
    The PUCL is thankful to the district administration of Varanasi and to other social service organisations that extended their co-operation in this enquiry.

-- Gurinder Singh, Advocate, Convenor, district Convenor, PUCL Varanasi; Tanvir Ahmed Siddiqui, Advocate member; A.K Mukherjee, member; Ms. Ranjana Gaud, member; Susdhanshu Agarwal, Advocate, member

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