The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) initiated an inspection into two children homes, Umeed Aman Home for Boys and Khushi Rainbow Home for Girls, in South Delhi established by Centre for Equity Studies on the basis of a complaint received regarding a violation of the Juvenile Justice Act. Consequently, two teams were established by the NCPCR led by the Chairperson himself to investigate the matter. Harsh Mander is the director of CES, according to NCPCR.
The two homes were inspected on the 1st of October, 2020. Furthermore, the NCPCR was also aware of a case of child sexual abuse at Umeed Aman Ghar which is run by the Aman Biradari Trust according to NCPCR. The Aman Biradari Trust was founded by none other than Harsh Mander, former member of Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council (NAC) and a member of an organisation with links to the Italian Secret Service and the Italian Government.
The NCPCR notes, “It was informed by the Former Member (of the NCPCR) that the said complaint was received in the Commission in 2012 but the matter was not dealt adequately at that time and that the same is required to be looked into in light of present complaint that has been received by the Commission.”
The NCPCR during its visit discovered that numerous norms and regulations were flouted at these homes. Covid norms and social distancing were not observed and apart from these, there were other serious violations.
Umeed Aman Ghar for Boys
The Child Care Institution registration was not renewed. There was no adequate counselor, cook or helper available. There were no records of recruitment of each staff, or work profile, and no medical officer was available on call. Most worryingly, “The rooms of the Home were not segregated and there was mingling of minor children with the elder children, which made the minor children vulnerable to abuse and bullying by the elder children.”
The NCPCR noted that it had come to its knowledge that there were multiple cases of child sexual abuse that had occurred within the institution at 2012, 2013 and 2016. However, during the inspection, the Commission was told that there had been no case of sexual offence at the institution and neither has been any case of child rights violation reported.
The NCPCR said, “The response given by the Staff and In- charge of the Home regarding this matter has been observed to be misleading and incorrect which is a serious violation and offence.” Furthermore, the child rights body has stated that it has knowledge of sexual abuse continuing in the shelter home and yet, it was not being reported.
The Commission also noted that a series of contradictory statements were made in regard to child sex abuse at the institutions. After initial denial of the shelter homes, CES appears to have admitted that these cases did occur. In fact, the NCPCR cites a Delhi High Court order where the state government was directed “to take appropriate action against the Manager who had failed to report the child sexual abuse incident at that time.”
In light of such events, “the Commission has taken a serious view of the contradictory submissions made by the Centre for Equity Studies and that such concealment of facts from the NGO makes it clear that the safety and security of children in this Home is jeopardized and that the children must be shifted from this institution at the earliest.”
The manner in which the manager was dealt with was also quite disgusting. Instead of taking stern action against the manager, he was simply moved from one home of the organisation to the other. the Department of WCD of the Delhi Government was aware of this and yet, did not take any action in this regard.
The Department of WCD (Delhi) did seek clarification regarding taking note of the fact that the action was not appropriate and yet, for some reason, no action was taken when the department did not receive a reply.
Khushi Rainbow Home for Girls
There were similar violations observed at Khushi Rainbow Home for Girls with the notable exception of child sex abuse. There were no record of recruitment of each staff, only one child welfare officer for 90 children, no classrooms, the staff residence was not as per prescribed norms. There were only 8 bathrooms for 90 children. Sanitation was a major concern and the general situation appeared to be quiet pathetic.
The Funding Problem observed by NCPCR
The shelter homes for children were being funded by multiple sources. Apart from Center for Equity Studies, the Rainbow Foundation of India (RFI), the Association for Rural and Urban Needy (ARUN-India), the ‘Dil Se Campaign’ of Can Assist Society and Aman Biradari and an MoU between the CES and the Delhi Government’s Samgra Shiksha Abhiyan.
It is all a bit confusing but as per the website of ‘Can Assist’, ARUN-India is the parent organization of RFI although there does not appear to be any mention of it on the RFI’s website. There is also an admission in the Can Assist website that there is funding involved from the Delhi Government and the Aman Biradari Trust is involved as well.
According to the NCPCR, lakhs and lakhs of rupees were given every year to the child shelter homes every year. The Umeed Aman Ghar, particularly, received over Rs. 15 lakh in the financial year 2020-21 alone from ARUN-India. From RFI, it received over Rs. 41 lakh. Khush Rainbow Home received over Rs. 38 lakh from the RFI. And this is apart from the funding received from the Delhi Government which was well over Rs. 40 lakhs for the past couple of years for Umeed Aman Ghar.
Furthermore, the two shelter homes informed the Commission that they were receiving funds from the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DSUIB) but later, CES told NCPCR that the funds were being received from DSUIB for urban shelter Homes for Homeless adults. DSUIB also told NCPCR that no funds had been made available to these shelter homes.
The NCPCR noted, “It may be noted that while it has been stated by Centre for Equity Studies as well as DUSIB that no grants were provided to the said two Homes and that the grants were given for the shelter Homes of the NGO, the Commission had received the information of the grants received from DUSIB from these two Homes itself.”
It adds, “Further, as per the information provided by the Homes as well as DUSIB, it is seen that there is a huge discrepancy of the funds disclosed by these two Homes and the funds being granted by DUSIB. While DUSIB has stated that it has not provided any funds in the year 2020-21, the Homes have stated that they have received a grant of Rs.7,48,000/- till September 2020 for the financial year 2020-21.”
The NCPCR recommended that the Departments of WCD and Education of the Government of Delhi take serious view of the matter and initiate an investigation into the serious lapses and violations at the two shelter homes. The NCPCR also recommended that an investigation also be carried out against the inspection officials so as to comprehend how were these glaring flaws ignored for so long.
In addition, the NCPCR has also recommended that Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police investigate the multiple sources of funding of these shelter homes and the Ministry of Home Affairs has also been urged to investigate possible FCRA violations. It was also noted that foreign nationals had visited these homes for “voluntary service”, the NCPCR urged the Home Ministry to investigate whether any VISA violations had been committed.