அநாதை இல்லங்கள் வறுமையால் பாதிக்கப்பட்டவர்களுக்கு தூய்மையான உள்ளத்துடன் உதவ வேண்டும்.
The Promised Land, a children’s home on the outskirts of Salem near Paruthikadu, is the antithesis of its eponymous Biblical reference. The officials who run the institution through an organisation called Indian Christian Mission for Children (ICMC) not only use children of undisclosed origin to solicit funds, mostly from abroad, but have also been charged with physically and sexually abusing them while keeping them in squalid conditions. [News gathered from Times of India Chennai issue dated 16-7-2012]
While The Promised Land may be an extreme case of the many homes in Tamil Nadu where children are tortured and abused, the state has done little to put a check on such institutions despite specific rules laid own under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2006 and the Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes Act, 1960. The state’s failure to guarantee a child’s right to education, proper food, housing and clothing has led to the mushrooming of such homes across Tamil Nadu. The authorities rarely conduct mandatory periodic inspections. Officials granted The Promised Land in 2010 conditional registration for six months but it continues to function without any checks. Malnourished children at the home are too scared to open up to the few visitors who are permitted within the home, located on a sprawling 120-acre site that is barricaded from the outside world by fences and all-intrusive employees.
This correspondent had to pose as a person interested in making a donation to be allowed into orphanage that is owned and run by Reverend S Jayaraj Krishna. Ramya (name changed), a seven-year-old, has been taught to tell everybody who comes to visit the home she lives in that she is an orphan. “I have no parents and neither do my friends,” she says, eyes sunk in an emaciated face covered with tousled hair. She lives with more than 20 other children in a shabby 8ft x 8ft matchbox room in a school building converted to a hostel. The children are forced to sleep on the floor without pillows or sheets. The single electric fan on the ceiling does not work. “The light and fan in our room almost never work,” said one of Ramya’s roommates. “It’s always dark in the rooms here at night. When we have to study we all go out into a playground, where a large lamp is switched on.”
Krishna also runs four colleges and three schools, including one teacher-training institute in the same campus. Construction is underway on a hospital and a medical college — all under Krishna’s organisation, Indian Christian Mission for Children (ICMC). The orphanage is off limits to locals and Indians, but foreigners and wealthy donors have limited access. “When a donor visits, he can take any child out for the day and spend $50 on him,” Krishna said. While the offer may seem generous, child rights activists say sending a child out with a stranger makes the child vulnerable to sexual abuse. On July 2, an employee of The Promised Land was arrested for allegedly molesting a Class 8 schoolgirl in the hostel. “I asked one of the school officials if I could borrow his mobile phone to call my parents.
He told me to meet him on the third floor at 8pm on Sunday,” the victim told TOI. “When I was on my way to the toilet at 4.30am on Monday, a group of four men blocked my path but I managed to escape.” A few years earlier, the family of one of the male students at the orphanage filed a complaint of sodomy against Krishna himself, but later withdrew the complaint. Foreign volunteers have also stumbled upon other irregularities at the home. “I sent money for a boy for two years,” said Andrew, an American volunteer. “I received three letters from the child. But when I visited the orphanage, I found he was missing. I was told he had left last year.”
Jackson, another volunteer, says he stayed at The Promised Land campus for a week. “I came across instances where children were given free admission and their records were used to gather donations. Later the home began demanding money from the parents on the threat of withholding the students’ transfer certificates.” According the district social welfare department’s own records, it last inspected the premises in 2010. “We have recommended the mission for a three-year registration,” said M Akhilandeswari, the district protection officer at Salem.
We want all poor orphanage missions should function without any complaint and to serve the needy people without expecting any profit from them.