M A I N   N E W S

A Tribune Investigation
Homes Without Care-II
Where lives never change

Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Faridabad, July 6
It’s 7 am and all boys have fallen in line for the morning assembly at the observation home. After the prayers and the breakfast, it’s study time at the home where 50 per cent of the 66 boys are illiterate. For a few who want to study, there are no teachers.

As if keeping them all gainfully occupied throughout the day is not challenge enough, the overburdened staff at this home plays teacher, cop, supervisor, helper and counsellor all at the same time without any respite.

Thankfully for the staff, most of the undertrials at the home are a disciplined lot. There have hardly been any instances of discord among the boys. In fact, some of the undertrials, who have successfully cleared their matriculation and class XII examinations, even pitch in as teachers for the younger lot.

Administrative hassles and red tapism cause more headache at this home than the undertrials, booked primarily for murders, rapes, robberies. “We have sent a proposal of providing us with teachers under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. The request is pending with the department concerned and there is no indication of how long it will take. We have a computer teacher for educated boys while the illiterate are being taught to read and write at our level. As a result, work suffers on all fronts,” explains one of the employees.

In the corridors, “big boys” are at work - painting thoughts by great men on the walls of the home.

One of them, a maxi cab conductor, involved in alleged serial killings that rocked Gurgaon a few years ago, is described as one of the “more disciplined” boys at the home. “He was lured into crime by his maternal uncle. He was present when his gang waylaid unwary travellers and killed them for money. Sometimes, Rs 2 was all they got for taking a life. At least, here, most of his day passes ensuring that the undertrials are doing the assignment given to them,” says a staffer.

On days of court dates of undertrials, the home invariably falls short of hands at work to be done around. This is so because the local police has refused to take the undertrials to court.

“The local police maintains that the home has children from six districts. They take responsibility for the boys from this district only while our men have to take the rest to the court. Correspondence from the police headquarters, too, has failed to get the police moving. We are stuck with more than our share of responsibilities,” an official adds.

While the grievances of the staff are genuine, the boys too have their share of problems. Most of them are from rural backgrounds and have lived their life on their terms. Sticking to a 5 am to 8 pm schedule, laid down by the staff, gets somewhat suffocating for them.

“The morning goes in writing counting on the slate. I don’t like it but there is nothing else to do. Studies don’t interest me at all neither does painting. I am only killing time,” sums up a 10-year-old at the home, who is here on charge of alleged murder.

Another states that there is a doctor who comes only once a week. In case of an emergency, there is no doctor available on call. “It seems the authorities think that illness will come with a warning. Instead of a doctor visiting us in need, we are huddled into a vehicle and rushed to a hospital,” he says.

As the day comes to a close, they boys are packed and locked into the eight cells on the premises. Tomorrow is just another ordinary monotonous day. They complain that their lives never change.



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