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