|SUMAN K. SHRIVASTAVA|
Ranchi, June 1: It took almost seven years for authorities to realise that a girls’ residential school in a remand home meant for boys was nothing short of a colossal absurdity.
But it occurred on rebel turf Palamau.
What happened was this. The Palamau branch of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) started in December 2005. As there was no building, it took over the existing boys’ observation home.
And Palamau’s minor offenders — juvenile boys in conflict with the law to use the proper parlance — had no other option but to travel 165km to be lodged at the Ranchi observation home, a process that needlessly delayed their getting justice.
This unorthodox arrangement continued for years without anyone even batting an eyelid. After all, it only inconvenienced 300 needy girls and a few cast-off boys.
This April, when a team of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) headed by Yogesh Dube arrived, it was shocked to find the Kasturba Gandhi school running from an observation home in Daltonganj, the district headquarters, right beside the district jail.
It called this a gross violation of child rights and gave a three-month deadline to the administration to build a new school elsewhere, finish it and get the girls in.
For once, the administration bucked the norm of delaying deadlines and started working overtime to complete the task within time.
Deputy commissioner Pooja Singhal told The Telegraph the cradle would shift to its new building 10km away from the remand home by June 15.
“We will start the observation home soon, too,” she added.
Officially, the state has eight observation homes for boys and two for girls.
According to a Palamau judicial official, as the boys were forced to be lodged in the Ranchi home, travel arrangements had to be made for them to come to Daltonganj and be produced before Juvenile Justice Board, which invariably delayed justice.
“Some 12 children were released on bail a fortnight ago, but four juveniles in conflict with the law are staying at the Ranchi observation home,” said Ranchi social welfare officer Lal Singh Kuril.
The 300 girl students at the Kasturba Gandhi school had their own problems, as Yogesh Dube and Co. pointed out in a 26-page report to the state government.
“There is no separate classroom for the girls. Classes are held in the same room where they stay. The rooms are made to house juveniles in conflict with the law. They give one the feeling of being in jail,” the national panel’s report said.
It added that the girls did get cooked food, but there were no benches or tables and too few textbooks.
The child rights commission had also sought a report on a school in Salathua village under Chainpur block, which had opened apparently due to Naxalite intervention.
Salathua residents had told the visiting team that due to some minor construction hitch, the school had been closed.
The team had also asked the deputy commissioner to develop a proper rehabilitation package for rescued child labourers, stressing on the need to beef up infrastructure of anganvadi centres and primary schools.
As there were more than 5,000 malnourished children officially in the district, the report also urged the need to conduct a survey to find out the exact numbers and classify them according to the latest WHO guideline, as well as undertake special nutrition drives.
The team also found that a tribal girls’ hostel run by the social welfare department in the district’s Sadar block was nothing but an overstuffed godown.
“Against the capacity of 100 inmates, there were 150 girls. But of the 30 rooms, six were crammed with social welfare department goods such as cycles, utensils, while the watchman’s kin illegally occupied two. There were no proper arrangements for food to inmates,” the report said.
“Our commission has sent a detailed report to the state with a slew of recommendations,” Dube told The Telegraph from New Delhi. “The deputy commissioner has begun a lot of work after our visit but we are yet to get an action-taken report from the government,” he added.