Where are 2 lakh missing children? SC asks govt

New Delhi, August 22: The Supreme Court was in for a shock on Tuesday after coming to know that over two lakh children lodged in thousands of child care institutions across India have gone “missing”, as there was huge difference between the figures in two documents submitted by the Centre before it.

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The discrepancy was pointed out by advocate Aparna Bhat who is assisting the top court as amicus curiae. She told the top court that a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) survey showed that 50,000 children in these homes were ready for adoption but government agencies were not willing to do the needful.

Bhat told a three-judge Bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur that a survey commissioned by the Centre and executed by the NCPCR in 2016-17 showed that in over 9,000 shelter homes 4.73 lakh children were lodged. But a status report filed by the Centre in March said only 2.61 lakh children were lodged in 8,734 child care institutions.

“Two lakh children…where are they? Where do we trace them?” the Bench asked Centre’s counsel Balasubramanyam after he suggested that there could be an error in the NCPCR survey as the child care institutions might have given inflated figures to get more aid.

“If it’s an inflated figured then the money involved is mindboggling. The government pays Rs 2,000 to look after every child. This would go into crores.”

An apparently unconvinced Bench and asked if the Centre cross-checked with states. “These figures are alarming. Surveys do have errors but it cannot be 100%,” it said.

As the Bench proposed to set up monitoring committees at national and state levels to look into the issue of shelter homes, the Centre expressed reservations over it. To be headed by retires Supreme Court and retired high court judges, these committees would include government officials and activists. The Bench asked the Centre to get back to it by next Tuesday.

Discussing the NCPRC survey conducted in association with NGO Child Line, Bhat told the court that biting, pinching, restriction on movement, withholding food, rest and use of toilet besides use of abusive languages were the most common methods applied in child care institutions to “discipline” children.

The Bench is hearing a PIL on exploitation of children in shelter homes and orphanages. NCPCR survey – which covered over 9,000 homes – found that 4,416 of these homes used these regressive methods to “discipline” child inmates.

Bhat said NCPCR survey also covered the Muzaffarpur shelter home where child sexual abuse has now been reported.

The Bench pulled up the West Bengal government for not setting up child welfare committees in all the districts as mandated by statutes. “This is absolutely wrong… You have the issue of babies being sold in West Bengal. You must have read in newspapers and you don’t have CWCs,” the Bench said after coming to know that CWCs had been set up only in two districts of the state.

Source Tribune India

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