INDIA: 1,807 children escaped from shelter homes in four years

Summary: It has been revealed that 1,807 children escaped from NGO- and government-run shelter homes in New Delhi, India throughout a four-year period. There have even been cases of child deaths, inadequate hygiene facilities and poor food. This finding has highlighted significant gaps in the shelter home system that include a lack of a child-friendly environment and a lack of sufficient training of staff in child rights.

[NEW DELHI, 20 January 2011] - They escape life on the streets for a better life in shelter homes but for hundreds of children the new life does not seem to have brought any joy. According to the reply to an RTI filed by officials of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an NGO working for child rights, 1,807 children have run away from shelter homes run by NGOs as well as the Delhi government during 2006 to 2010.

Of the 1,807 children who escaped, only 57 have been found. No one knows what happened to the rest of the 1,750 children who have still not been found. The data is from 26 shelter homes from around the city.

According to the information furnished in the reply, the total number of children that lived in the 26 shelter homes over the period of four years is 10,600. That means almost 20% (one fifth) of the children have escaped from these shelters. As many as 97 % of them have still not been found.

Another shocking statistic that has come forth from the RTI is that 29 children have died in these homes during the four years. Although the exact reasons for the deaths were not given, it was said they died because of illnesses.

“The children should be safe in these shelters but it seems that this is not happening. Twenty eight of these 29 children are from Bal Nirikshan Grih, Nirmal Chhaya Complex, Jail Road which is a government run shelter home,” said Kailash Satyarthi, founder, Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

The highest number of children that escaped from a particular shelter is 807. These children escaped from the shelter home being run by NGO, Prayas in Jahangirpuri.

From the government-run institutions, the highest number of children escaping — 169, is from the Children’s Home for Boys, Alipur.

“This clearly shows that these shelter homes completely lack a child-friendly environment. The people working in these homes and taking care of the children are not doing their duties properly and are not trained in child rights,” Satyarthi said.

According to Satyarthi, the condition in the shelters is quite bad.  “Sometimes they don’t get adequate soap and water to bathe. Children also complain that the food is of bad quality,” he added.

But the lack of facilities does not seem to be because of lack of funds. According to financial records of 15 of the 26 shelter homes, Rs 5 crore was spent on the children in the year 2007-08.  “During that year, 1,467 children were living in these shelter homes, which means R3,000 were spent on every child per month which is more than enough for a child,” Satyarthi said.


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