I am not attempting to paint an ugly picture of India, but among the vast population of lovely people just trying to get by, is a thick stench of social injustice that needs to be changed.
A Former Chattanooga doctor will move back to India to avoid prison. Vikul Vinobhai Patel was charged with two counts of attempted sexual relations with an 11-year old and 14-year old, and for possession of child pornography. Who will protect India’s children from him? There is a rape in India every 22 minutes, the majority are the Dalit or “untouchables” these people groups are left vulnerable to such offenses. The Asian Center for Human Rights showed 48,338 child rape cases within a 10-year span,the true number is unknown since many go unreported.
On woman’s day no less, a 15- year old girl was raped and set on fire,and later died of her injuries. A 14- year old girl was raped and tortured,forced to drink an acid like substance while being held captive by three men and a woman, only one has been arrested. The girl’s uncle stated that for two months she suffered, unable to eat, and vomiting blood,until she died at the hospital.
What about the POA Act, which was intended to protect the ” untouchables” within the Castes? those who thought they had finally made a giant leap to change the ancient caste system, only found that it has been ingrained into the minds and culture. The law that forbids atrocities against the members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, is rarely enforced. Delhi Commission for Women Swati Maliwal,continues to fight for the Delhi government to come together and work. Offenses that caused public outrage in the past, brought promises of justice for rape victims, and were to make it easier for woman to report violations, the promises returned empty. The pot of poison seems to boil down to lack of human compassion and concern for the poor, woman, and children.
What about Juvenile Justice Act, which is intended for the care and protection of a child? The act spells out how the government is responsible for those who are neglected or homeless, and to prevent juvenile crime and delinquency. So how do they protect and care for street children? they send them to prison. The truth is the JJA,is not enforced and has many open loop holes, the Act is implemented inadequately or not at all, since enforcement is the responsibility of the state and local administrations,many states have failed to incorporate the act in their legislation.
UNICEF estimated that 11 million children lived in the streets of India,while other groups estimated at least 18 million from age 6 to 15 years-old. Many end up at the train station, some find work while others become vagabonds,crossing the country on the railway network. They live miserably, enduring hunger and malnutrition which are often accompanied by scabies and dysentery. The children often tell gruesome stories of the events that caused them to leave their homes, such as rape and abuse.
Street children earn as little as 10 Rupees a day (25 cents) and they beg, or steal to stay alive. Without adult protection,they face many grave risks that derive from their involvement in drug trafficking, organ trade, prostitution, pornography, and slavery.
Andhra is a greatly impoverished state, and holds the highest concentration of HIV infections in the entire Indian Union.
Many of Andhra’s street children make their way to Vijayawada which is located on the banks of the river Krishna — on average, 33 street children a day-arrive at the Vi-jayawada railway station,to escape the poverty in Andhra. Although there are charitable children’s homes in India, many street children are skeptical to stay in them, being on their own for many years with no schooling or restrictions, they choose to sleep on the streets. Freedom however, ex-poses the children to disease, exploitation, and further abuse. Sniffing glue and other solvents is common. In addition,the lifestyle often puts them at high risk of contracting HIV, over half of Vi-jayawada’s street children have a sexually transmitted disease or infection.
Street children are often beaten, tortured, and even murdered by police,who illegally de-tain them on a regular basis for such offenses as urinating outside or begging for food at the train stations. The Juvenile Justice Act, places these children into two categories, juveniles who are in conflict with the law, and those in need of care. Most of the street children have left their homes fleeing from various forms of physical and sexual abuse, only to find they are treated the same,if not worse in the government homes, which are in every way like a prison for these children.
Observation Homes are temporary holding facilities for juveniles who were arrested, or found to be neglected. “Juveniles in conflict with the law” wait there until trial, if convicted they are moved to juvenile detention, like the one operating in Hyderabad. The children “in need of care and protection” stay at the observation home until government investigation can track down their parents and discover their family background. If the parents turn out to be dead, unfound, unfit, or simply unwilling the child remains there. The two groups are generally housed together for months,those who have committed serious offenses are kept with much younger children who’s only crime was being neglected.
Boy’s are brought to the Government Observation Home for minor violations, or simply for roaming the bus and railway stations, a large majority of the children who have been detained there had not committed any crime. Up to 130 children ranging from 3 to 18 years-old are kept in three rooms whose combined size is about 700 square feet. The children have been observed as being weak and emaciated; scars and rashes cover their bodies.
The Observation Home— also known as pilla jail(children’s jail)— effectively operates as a gulag for street children. Life there is horrible, and often children received better treatment in the homes they left, or on the streets.
Vijayawada’s Observation home does not follow the JJA, which states children should receive ” rehabilitation” and adequate medical care. The children are never allowed outside, they are put in one room only leaving to use the bathroom,or for food rations.
Children are not allowed to speak or look out the window or they will be accused of trying to plan an escape, they are allowed a few hours of television, but are not allowed to laugh.
Hunger is what the children spoke of most,the little food they get is nearly inedible. Breakfast is a handful of corn flakes, the dishes are not washed and the children would often find worms and roaches in the stale rice they are given twice a day.
Because of very poor nutrition, all the children have scabies, many have skin infections, viral infections, and STD’s. However the home does not have the funds for medications,and will not bring them to the government hospital.
This may all sound like a carefully contrived horror story, but these children are not only neglected, they are also abused. The guards who are trained as corrections officers, regularly beat the boys with belts or wire, they are sexually abused by guards and the older boys in the home who hold rank. This so-called home, is intended to be temporary and the JJA states, children should not reside there more than three months while the government is investigating their fate. Many of the boy’s have spent 8 months to a year in the home, since the government fails to complete the reports within the time frame.
Corruption throughout the jail only makes matters worse, as the guards often bribe the parents who come to collect their children, they set large sums of money in order to release them, and the parents leave the children there because they can not pay the bribe. Children who have no family to reclaim them are sent to the juvenile home in Eluru, they will remain in this government-run facility until their eighteenth birthday.
The other statistic is children of inmates, until they reach 6 years-old children are housed with their mother, then handed to a family member or placed in a welfare institution,there are well over 2,000 children serving a sentence with their mother.
Those who fight for change have made numerous appeals to government, and the thought of international child rights groups getting involved looks very grim, why is it that people will spend millions and manpower to save an endangered species, while children suffer? There needs to be an international outcry, involving factions who have the power to make positive change.
I am thankful to our dear friends at Feed Ministries, their children once roamed the train stations, and lived on the streets. The vast majority of India’s street children are illiterate, at the orphanage, Praveen and his family ensure they receive an education, good nutrition, and proper medical care, most of all they receive what money can’t buy.. LOVE.
I ask anyone who is concerned for India’s children, either those in prisons, or victims of rape, to reach out in any way you can. To raise your voice or to support orphanages like Feed Ministries, who are dedicated to help India’s street children.
Helpful links below 🙂