Mumbai: Expressing concern over the poor condition of children homes across the state, the Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to file an affidavit listing the steps taken to regulate such homes, and details of the funds allocated. A special bench of justices Mridula Bhatkar and Revati Mohite-Dere also directed the secretary of the Maharashtra Women and Child Welfare Department to file an affidavit detailing the progress made in the repair and renovation work being undertaken at the children’s home in Umerkhadi, in the city.
The bench was hearing a bunch of public interest litigations on the poor infrastructure and facilities at the observation homes across the state, and a suo moto petition on rampant corruption and poor infrastructure at the Umerkhadi observation home that is run by the Children’s Aid Society. In November 2015, taking suo moto cognisance of the dilapidated condition of the Umerkhadi observation home building, the high court had directed that the 339 children residing there be shifted to another place. It had also directed that the said building be repaired, or a new building be constructed in its place.
In the order passed last week, the special bench directed that the state submit the progress report on the repair work at Umerkhadi, and that it also inform the court of the time that is likely to be taken to complete the work. The bench also expressed its displeasure over the state’s failure to implement security measures to regulate such non- government organisations (NGO) that run the homes for destitute children, and for such children who are found in conflict with the law under the Juvenile Justice Act.
During the hearing, the bench was informed that while the state’s own rules notified in 2013 prohibit it from granting licences to an NGO to run more than one children’s home, a survey conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences had revealed that this rule was not being followed. “It is categorically stated that the state government must never give permission to run more than one children’s home to any one organisation, but the petitioner states that the rule is being flouted.
“The government pleader must point out if the state has given permission to any one organisation to run multiple homes,” the bench said. “It must also file a reply detailing the date of sanction given to all the NGOs to run their respective children’s homes in the state and to inform whether the criteria prescribed by the statutes has been followed in each case,” it said.
During the hearing, the state also informed the court that it allocates Rs 1,215 monthly for each child living in a children’s home. Of this money, Rs 900 is directed towards the child’s maintenance while the remaining Rs 315 goes towards the administrative expenses incurred for a child. The bench, however, directed the state to submit a break-up of the amount disbursed for each children’s home in the state over the last three years. It also directed the state to submit the names of the managers of each of these children’s homes. The state has to submit the above replies and affidavits by November 2, the next date of hearing.