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Delhi shelter homes uninhabitable; over 1,800 children flee: RTI data

They were rescued from a difficult life of living on the streets or from the clutches of employers forcing them into labour and sent to children's homes. Sounds like a happy ending. But that is apparently not the case as over 1,800 children have escaped from various shelter homes in Delhi in the last four years because of their "uninhabitable" conditions, a RTI query has revealed.

Of the 1,807 children who escaped, only 57 have been found. The rest - 1,750 kids - are "still at large".

The data revealed is for the period between 2006 and 2010.

Children who are put in children's homes or shelter homes need to feel free; they should be able to participate in different activities. But in a lot of homes the situation is like in jails.
There have been cases where children have complained of sexual abuse by older kids in the homes, and these were being taken up by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). When it comes to homes run by NGOs, at least the mental well-being of the children is looked into; the government-run ones lag behind in that.

The information about the escaped children - as given by the women and child development department of the Delhi government - pertain to 26 shelter homes, both statutory and non-statutory.

The information given under the RTI Act says that the total number of children residing in these 26 shelter homes over the period of four years is 10,600; As many as 1,807 children escaping is nearly one-fifth of the total number and 97 percent of them are still at large.
Another shocking fact revealed is that 29 children residing in the homes died during the four-year period. Although the exact reasons for the deaths were not given, it was said they died because of illnesses.

The concern here is the children are kept in the shelter homes for survival and to get a better life, not to meet the end of their life. Twenty-eight of these 29 children are from Bal Nirikshan Grih, Nirmal Chhaya Complex, Jail Road.

The maximum number of children who escaped from a non-government organisation was 807, from the NGO Prayas. From among the state-run institutions, the highest number of children escaping - 169 - are from the Children's Home for Boys, Alipur.

There is no trace of these children and even the authorities concerned have no idea about the whereabouts of these children. It raises a question regarding the efficiency and seriousness of the services being provided by these institutions.

Delhi has 37 state-run and 17 non-government shelters as well as observation homes for homeless children with the total capacity of 3,000. According to civil society, more than 10,000 children live on Delhi's streets, mostly near bus stands and railway stations where they can find odd jobs.

Further, of the 76 temporary shelters in Delhi, not one is dedicated to children. It is alleged that the children are not allowed to enter the night shelters meant for adults and families.

The lack of facilities in the homes is however not because of paucity of funds, but for want of intention. The homes are funded by the government under different schemes.

In the information given, 15 of the 26 institutions furnished details of their expenditure for the year 2007-08. Their total expenditure was over Rs.5 crore and the per month expenditure on each child was approximately Rs.3,000.

This is sufficient for a child to get better facilities and infrastructure in the homes. Despite this, these homes are in a dilapidated condition, which makes one think whether the children are staying there for a better or bitter life.

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