Jatin Gandhi, Hindustan Times,
New Delhi, November 3, 2006
HUNDREDS OF children are languishing for years in state-run children’s homes in the Capital, because administrative red tape will not allow them to be reunited with their parents.
In many cases, the Department of Social Welfare knows the addresses of the children’s parents. But rules prevent officials from escorting the children back to their towns or villages.
The department has a budget for releasing advertisements with photographs and particulars of the children lodged with them in national dailies. It is allowed to send postcards to the children’s known addresses. But regulations bar it from doing more.
Gidda, 16, from Cuttack in Orissa, has spent the past seven years in various children’s homes in Delhi. He has given the authorities his family's exact address, down to the street on which it lives. But unless someone from Gidda's family spots the ads or responds to the postcards the department has sent and comes to claim him, Gidda has no hope of release.
It is the same for Bunty, 13, of Parasia village in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, who came to the children's home at Alipur in 2003. The department has issued at least a dozen advertisements in which he is featured, but no one has yet turned up to take him away.
Earlier this week, the department put out an advertisement listing 26 children now lodged at the Alipur boys' home. The addresses of half of these children are known; another three are from Delhi.
There are over 1,500 such children in the 23 children's homes that the department runs. "After a child comes to us, we conduct investigations on him for three months," said a department official. “We try to find his family through the police and sending postcards to the child’s village. We advertise in eight national dailies. If we get a response to the correspondence, and the parents are too poor to come here, we send the child back with a police escort. But if we do not the child stays with us.”
“The rules need to be changed,” said Vikram Srivastava, manager (development support), Child Rights and You (CRY). “Even now if parents manage to reach Delhi, they have to go to each and every children’s home to find their child. We need a centralised database of all children who have gone missing.” “I have just joined the department as director. I will take a closer look.
We will try to overcome this problem,” said Jaishri Raghuraman, director, Social Welfare, Delhi. She said she was keen on bringing changes but the Vidhan Sabha session was keeping her busy at present. “I will look into it after the session,” she said.