Maharashtra clamps down on sub-par children’s homes

MUMBAI,NAZIYA ALVI RAHMAN:After a recent departmental survey highlighted the failure of most NGOs on maintaining basic standards in children’s homes, the women and child development department is working on a new policy to regulate government grants given to such homes.
As per the new draft policy, the grants will not be given on a per-child basis but on the facilities and other basic infrastructure requirements. As of today, the department pays Rs900 per month per child to each children’s home.

Also, the new policy will rationalise the children’s homes across the state. Sources claim that as of today, there is a heavy concentration of children’s homes in Aurangabad district whereas there are several districts where there is no home at all. The old policy of 2011 is silent on exactly what quantity of population should have access to at least one children’s home.
“We are considering several options, like having a home in each district or taluka. However, as of now, the policy is in its initial stages and will take some time to be finalised. We have sought feedback from various social organisations working for child rights and are also studying policies for children’s homes in foreign countries ,” said a senior officer.
Sources in the department said that there were too many loopholes in the existing policy, which makes it easier for NGOs to get away with poor standards. In August last year, women and child development minister Pankaja Munde had initiated a survey into the living conditions of all the 963 children’s homes affiliated with the government and the outcome has left the department disappointed.
As per the survey, homes were classified under three categories — A, B and C — depending on their condition. Only 476 children homes fell in the “A” category and would continue to run with complete government support. The 273 homes that have fallen in the ‘B’ category will be given another chance to improve, but the government will not release grants for them until they show signs of improvement. Those in the “C” category, however, will be shut down soon.
“Homes that scored between 90% and 100% were placed under category A, those which scored between 80% and 90% fell in the B category, and any home scoring less than 80% was placed under category C,” said a senior official.
As per the Juvenile Justice Act, children’s homes should have a fairly large physical space, besides attached bathing and toilet facilities. The homes for transit care should have the minimum facilities of boarding and lodging and provide for the fulfilment of basic needs in terms of clothing, food, healthcare and nutrition, as well as have additional facilities for education, vocational training and recreation. In 2012, the central government had made it mandatory for all children’s homes in India to be registered under the Act even if they have a licence under any other law.