At the only government-run remand home for juvenile delinquents at Madiwala in Bengaluru, from where 13 minors escaped on Tuesday, children are packed like sardines in the two rooms and violent fights break out over petty issues. More dangerously, hardened juveniles, involved in heinous crimes are lodged with runaways and offenders of minor crimes like theft. Though the police department had requested the Women and Child Development Department to deploy policemen in mufti on the premises of the centre, it was turned down as it was in violation of the Juvenile Justice Act. Shweta Singh reports
Children in conflict with law (CCL) or juvenile delinquents are sent to government-run correctional homes or remand homes to reform and rehabilitate them and to integrate them back into society. But given the neglect and grim reality at these remand homes, many juvenile offenders run away from these centres, many a time in alleged collusion with the staff.
These government-run centres are anything but reform ‘homes’ for juvenile offenders, who are from fractured homes, poor socio-economic backgrounds and abusive childhood.
An official from the Women and Child Development (WCD) Department, which manages correctional homes, told Deccan Chronicle, “We have counsellors at the Madiwala Remand Home, from where 13 juveniles escaped on Tuesday. They visit the centre every day and speak to the children. Also, when we see a child behaving violently, we take the help of National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences (Nimhans). These children are given special attention. At times, guest cousellors from various colleges come to the centre and speak to the children in an attempt to reform them.”
Asked why juvenile offenders escape from remand homes, where their lives should be better than the harsh world outside, another WCD official said that these children come from weaker sections of society and are not used to living in a caged environment. “They are vagabonds and are used to living on the streets. They want to escape to freedom,” she said.
Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) members and child rights activists pointed out that the Madiwala Remand Home, the only such centre in the city, lacks basic facilities. A source said that the Correctional Home has only two rooms, and delinquents, who are booked for heinous crimes like murder and rape, are lodged with runaways and those in for minor crimes, like petty theft, and runaways.
A social activist revealed to Deccan Chronicle, “The children are packed like sardines in one dormitory. The rooms are small and overcrowded. Because of lack of space, these children feel caged and imprisoned. Violent fights over trivial issues are common here.”
The experts said that the objective of the juvenile justice system is to ensure that children get access to a better quality of life, education and have an opportunity to get back into society. “Unless the government takes the right steps and focuses on education, counselling, therapeutic interventions, health and hygiene, vocational training and extra-curricular activities, the offender in the juvenile will never die. No government is interested in these children as they are not vote banks.
Those in positions of power are not compassionate and fail to see the larger picture of lost childhood of lakhs of children. These misguided juveniles are used by adult criminals to execute heinous crimes. They go on to disrupt the public law and order,” a child rights activist said.
Escape is child’s play for these juveniles
A day after 13 juvenile offenders escaped from the government-run correction home at Madiwala, the police on Wednesday managed to trace three children who were part of an earlier group that ran away on July 31.
In the last eight months, over 42 juveniles have escaped from this home, which is the only correctional home for juveniles in the city and is situated right opposite the Madiwala police station.
Lack of security has been a major issue at the remand home for the last many years. Two staffers stay here at night, but they are no match for these minors, some of whom have committed heinous crimes. CCTV cameras have been installed, and two home guards are posted at the gates. But these guards are not trained enough to provide security at the correctional home.
A senior police officer said the home guards posted at the correctional home work on contract basis and are paid per shift. “We made a representation to the Women and Child Development Department to place policemen in mufti on the premises of Madiwala Remand Home. But it was rejected, as it was in contravention of the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) Act. We have also made repeated requests to increase the staff and to depute well-trained security personnel, but the department has not responded positively,” he added.
The staff at the observation home said that they had asked for a minimum of eight home guards, but only three were sanctioned on shift basis. There is also a need for Group D employees, but the department has not taken the staff shortage seriously. In the absence of adequate security, it’s indeed a child’s play for the hardened juveniles to escape from this ‘home.’
Guest Column: ‘Juvenile offenders need to be de-stressed, counselled’
-Vasu Primlani Somatic therapist and specializes in dealing with crime and trauma cases
Most criminals come from a very abusive background. As far as juvenile delinquents are concerned they already have undergone a hard life, and hence the purpose of a remand home should be to reform and provide a better option for life.
However, sadly, this does not happen in India. Most often these children are motivated to run away as these homes lack friendly or supportive atmosphere.
To deal with children who are in conflict with the law, the government needs to have counselors, who are specialized in the field and can help the child. Doctors aren’t qualified to do so.
A therapist should take out the trauma that they have been carrying up till now. Nobody is a criminal out of choice. There is some sort of economic or weak socio-economic background for these children. There is usually a lot of rage or humiliation involved. This is how the child has been raised. So if a child who has been abused grows up with a lot of anger, they are more likely to commit a crime.
Once the trauma has been taken out the individual is de-stressed. Then the cousellor or therapist can help in decriminalizing them. A standard counsellor cannot handle child who come with such disturbed background or abusive childhood. Right now the remand homes aren’t helping these children in rehabilitation, but adding to their misery.
The government can’t be blamed either as in India there are a very small number of psychologists or counsellers who are qualified to handle such children.
There is an urgent need for intervention in this area to help the children, who are in conflict with law. They should be dealt with utmost care and sensitivity. The focus should be to reform them and induct them in mainstream society.