Kundu said though there have been allegations of sodomy at the home, the children the team spoke to didn't want to speak about it. "They would be referred to a counsellor as children need to first trust you to open up completely," he said. "Some children were very clear that they don't want to live in the house and one child alleged that the coordinator and staff engage in drugs and tobacco on campus," Kundu said. He said that there must be an unaddressed problem behind the running away of children. "One allegation was of the utterly bad quality of food and it is absolutely correct. We found rats in the kitchen, and the sink where potatoes were being washed was worse than a toilet," he said. "That's why no one wants to live there," Kundu said.
Toilets were absolutely pathetic. "There is no adequate light, no doors, no cistern, no functional taps, no handwash and no wash basin. These are the indicators of the level of hygiene," Kundu said. Some children alleged that they were beaten up by the staff, and one child also showed blade cuts on his body. "When confronted, the coordinator said that the child was clinically unfit," Kundu said, adding that if the child had self-inflicted the wound, he should have been referred to a counsellor. But nothing of that sort had been done. "There are definite lapses and it isn't acceptable," he said. Kundu said four children are still missing. They had run away earlier on Diwali. "We found a governance crisis at the home. We will be summoning the director," he said.
Kundu said the home was granted Rs 55 lakh in the last one year but it's unclear where the money had been spent. "If they can't provide sanitation or food, what are they doing with the money?" Kundu said, adding that the DCPCR team found the presence of a large number of outsiders inside the campus.
Mukesh Kumar, the coordinator and superintendent of the children's home, however, strongly contested all the claims. "Some of the children were sent here by Juvenile Justice Board under Section 377 of IPC and POCSO. Those children didn't want to stay here and escaped. But we found all of them the next day," Kumar said.
He also said that rats had been coming inside the home due to construction work happening nearby, but stressed none had reached the kitchen. He also said the toilets were usable. "There are doors in the toilets and we issue soaps to children for bathing and washing hands. The DCPCR team asked about the absence of hand sanitisers at the toilets. This is no hotel. Running a children's home is not easy," Kumar said.
He also rubbished claims of physical torture. "There are CCTV cameras everywhere. District Child Protection Unit visits regularly and the children interact directly with them. If they were being beaten, they would have complained to them," Kumar said. As regards the point about too many outsiders being seen inside the campus, Kumar said there were bakeries, laundry units etc for the vocational training of children. These have their own employees. "They are not outsiders, but they have no interaction with the children," he said.
(Source: The Times of India)