Mumbai: The repair and renovation work at the Children Observation Home at Dongri has been going on in full swing for the last two months. However, a member of the Board has alleged that no inspection committee has been appointed to supervise and plan well the repair and renovation work, keeping in mind the children’s protection, safety and security.
According to Madhu Madhavan, a member of the Juvenile Justice Board (Mumbai suburban), “In January this year, the International Justice Mission, a Non-Governmental Organisation had renovated the Child Welfare Committee room at the Dongri observation home. Now, they have again demolished the room and repairing it again.
The ceiling of the room was in a dilapidated condition. Although the room was renovated, the ceiling was not repaired earlier. The rules for protection, safety and security of the children as laid out in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000 have not been kept in mind. There should be proper visibility of children. The children in the age group of 12-18 are mischievous but they cannot be kept in a prison like structure. The repair work should be planned in such a way that the care takers and staff members can spot the children even from a distance. The design and layout of the Bhiwandi observation home has been planned well that way in a circular form.”
“An inspection committee comprising of the officials of the Public Works Department(PWD), the judiciary, the members of the Juvenile Justice Board, the authorities at the Dongri Observation home and the authorities of the Children’s Aid Society should be formed to address the problems and inspect the repair and renovation work. An inspection committee should have a proper layout plan in place and a thorough inspection should be carried out. Earlier, there was an inspection committee to look into the repair works,” added Madhavan.
A counselling room has been made in a cramped up area with wooden panels. “It does not make sense to make a counselling room in such a small area. A new member of the JJB who will be joining within a month’s time after completion of training. Earlier, I used to sit in the member’s chamber. However, there is a perception that the member’s chamber is a Magistrate’s chamber which is presently occupied by the Magistrate. The area occupied by the Magistrate is spacious and could have been used as a counselling room for the benefit of the children since the Magistrate would require the chamber only during lunch hours. The washroom near the Magistrate’s chamber also cannot be accessed by the members. Western toilets are being built in that area. However, western style toilets are a private affair and Indian style toilets should have been built since the home is for the public,” alleged Madhavan.
Madhavan is also dissapointed with no proper fans in the counselling room where she is presently seated. “There is no fan in the counselling room. With a lot of difficulty, a wall fan was installed but it doesn’t give sufficient air. I had requested the Chief probation officer to get another wall fan installed but I was told that unless an NGO donates wall fans, nothing can be done about it,” she added.
“The Magistrate has asked for a separate room for the JJB (Mumbai city members). I have learnt that the new member who will be joining within a month’s time will be occupying that room. There is no proper facility for the members to have meals,” she said.
The PwD had issued a circular in May 2017 declaring the Dongri juvenile observation home as unsafe. The 212-year-old home houses undertrials under 18. As per the earlier circular, the first floor of the main building which houses the official residence of the Superintendent Trupti Jadhav was also unsafe. A meeting was convened in April with the members of the Board regarding the repair work at the home only after Justice Dharmadhikari of the Bombay High Court had issued a direction in this regard.