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The Plight of Remand Homes
The recent case of 11-year old Rohit, an inmate of a remand home in the capital, who was brutally killed by an older boy at the behest of the caretakers, makes Charles Dickens’ portrayal of Oliver Twist’s orphanage look mild. The boy was tied by his feet, hung upside down from a hook and thrashed to death for helping another child escape. This gruesome incident brings to light the terrible way juvenile homes are run in this country. As a matter of fact, many children try to flee from these homes.
Again, there is this case of 12-year-old Arif (not his real name) from Bihar who worked at an auto repair shop in Mehrauli, and who was picked up from the railway station by the police when he had gone to see off his friend returning to his village. Arif was so desperate for freedom and so eager to get back to work, that he jumped down a 14 ft. high barbed wall. But the caretakers got wind of the escape and Arif was allegedly stoned and stopped. Thereafter, he was roughed up and his legs put in plaster.
In fact, escapes have become the main worry of the state government’s social welfare department. Only last December, 72 children fled from a remand home at Majnu-ka-Tila. Earlier some inmates also escaped from another home in the capital. It is learnt that the caretakers are now under pressure to prevent more such incidents. But escapes continue to be frequent.
The question that needs to be asked is: Why do children, many of whom are destitute and abandoned, run away from homes that supposedly aim to protect them?
A recent visit to a home revealed the reasons and filled one with anguish as much as despair. Sad little faces had one common refrain on their tiny lips: “Help me get out.” A newly admitted child bitterly wept: “Who will now care for my baby brother? We’ve no one except each other,” he sobbed. These children were barely six or seven and one or two even younger, who sat on the floor of dark and dull ‘classrooms’ staring vacantly at blackboards filled with big numbers that were written in English. But the children spoke mostly Hindi or other regional languages.
In the kitchen some children sat kneading the dough, rolling chappatis and helping the lone cook for a home of some 180 children. Those who help here may get an extra share. In another dark room, some other children fiddled with rags. This was a tailoring class. The sick-room and the dormitory with a heap of dingy bed-clothes and no bedsteads reeked with the stench.
Many children are unhappy here because they have nothing worthwhile to do or learn. For most of them in the 10-16 year age-group, it is a precious period when they picked up a trade, as poverty forces them to work. Many juveniles picked up by the police for ‘loitering’ in railway stations and bus terminals are working children caught travelling ticketless. Some are runaways from their homes and schools for failures and corporal punishments. Some are deviants All of them are housed together.
Under the Juvenile Justice Act, 1857. the remand homes have been set up for destitute and abandoned children who are likely to be abused and exploited. The JJ act says the homes must provide services to the physical, mental, moral and spiritual welfare of children and facilities for self-improvement. But such programmes do not exist. Instead, sources allege that pilferage from the rations of the children may not be uncommon and a culture of ‘bullying’ is widespread. The children are neither given any education nor any work training to help them face life once they are freed after attaining the age of sixteen.
Visits to the homes are controlled by the government. This restriction must end. Merely suspending erring officials (as in Rohit’s case) does not help. The children must be given their basic rights, love and care; and the system will only then truly be an arm of justice from which few would want to escape.
1. Answer the following questions on the basis of your reading-
(a) Why has Charles Dickens’ portrayal of Oliver Twist’s orphanage been described as mild?
(b) What happens when children try to escape from remand homes?
(c) Give two reasons why children try to flee from remand homes?
(d) Why should the restriction on visits to remand homes be ended ‘?
2. Find phrases in the passage which mean the same as the following :
(a) attacked in a threatening was (Para 2)
(b) remarks repeated by many (Para 5)
(c) physical injury for doing wrong (Para 7)
(d) only (Para 9 )
1.a) Olivar Twist was not hung upside down and beaten to death. That is why his orphanage has been described as mild when compared to poor Rohit’s fate.
b) They are caught and roughed up badly.
c) The living conditions in remand homes arc very deplorable. Secondly, the caretakers arc cruel and non-cooperative.
d) The real purpose of remand homes is that destitute and abandoned children should be provided every facility for physical, mental, moral and spiritual improvement.
2.a) attacked in a threatening way — roughed up.
b) remarks repeated by many — common refrain.
c) physical injury for wrong doing — corporal punishment.
d) only merely