No­body’s Chil­dren

Traf­fick­ing to boost num­bers or sav­ing the kids? A Ker­ala or­phan­age shows up a few dark spots

India Today - - STATES - By Jeemon Ja­cob

Jana­seva Sisubhavan So­ci­ety, a char­i­ta­ble trust that runs or­phan­ages in Er­naku­lam’s Aluva town, is un­der the district Child Wel­fare Com­mit­tee (CWC) scan­ner fol­low­ing se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions of child traf­fick­ing and flout­ing of state norms.

The CWC re­cently di­rected the NGO to fur­nish con­tact de­tails for the next of kin or guardians for all its wards. It be­lieves that JSS is in­volved in traf­fick­ing of chil­dren from other states to ramp up the num­bers in its care. The so­cial wel­fare depart­ment gives Rs 300-1,000 per child (ac­cord­ing to age) as grant to recog­nised or­phan­ages. A com­mon ruse em­ployed is to ad­mit poor chil­dren, list­ing them as or­phans to get the grant, a com­mon ‘pro­ce­dural ir­reg­u­lar­ity’ with most char­ity homes.

CWC chief Pad­maja Nair says, “We have found anom­alies and pro­ce­dural vi­o­la­tions in the Sisubhavan case. Chil­dren from other states were ad­mit­ted with­out re­quired doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing con­tact ad­dresses of guardians.”

The CWC’s ac­tion comes af­ter Change In­dia, a Chennai-based vol­un­tary group, al­leged that Jana­seva Sisubhavan had il­le­gal cus­tody of 54 chil­dren from Tamil Nadu. “It’s our duty to mon­i­tor child wel­fare mea­sures in the district. We can’t ac­cept de­vi­a­tions and il­le­gal cus­tody of chil­dren,” says Nair, who re­cently also di­rected Sisubhavan to repa­tri­ate 16 tribal chil­dren brought from Arunachal Pradesh.

Jose Maveli, a lo­cal busi­ness­man and an or­phan him­self who floated Jana­seva Sisubhavan in 1999, how­ever, claims the CWC was try­ing to throt­tle his or­gan­i­sa­tion. “The CWC has raided us over 20 times in the past five years. They blame us for vi­o­la­tions, but what have they done to save street chil­dren?” he asks. Maveli says he’s not against repa­tri­at­ing chil­dren to their homes, but “street kids who’ve been aban­doned by their fam­i­lies are a very dif­fer­ent lot”. He cites the in­stance of four girls forcibly sent home to their fam­i­lies at the be­hest of the CWC. “All of them have since com­plained of sex­ual abuse,” Maveli says.

State Child Rights Com­mis­sion mem­ber M.P. Antony, how­ever, says Ker­ala can­not al­low traf­fick­ing of chil­dren from other states to its or­phan­ages. “We are for stern mea­sures against child traf­fick­ing in the state. The district child wel­fare com­mit­tees are mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion on the ground.” Amid all the fin­ger-point­ing, hang­ing in the bal­ance is the fate of scores of young chil­dren at the Sisubhavan’s or­phan­ages in Aluva.

SISUBHAVAN WAS AL­READY IN THE DOCK OVER THE 16 TRIBAL KIDS FROM ARUNACHAL

SHOW OF HANDS Jose Maveli with chil­dren from one of his or­phan­ages

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