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The other home

The other home
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With adolescent crimes rates rising by the day, juvenile remand homes have come to occupy a major chunk in our social imagination. ‘The idea behind putting the minor accused in juvenile homes is rehabilitating these children and young persons in order to ease them back into society as stable, healthy and productive members,’ said a police official in Special Police unit of Women and Children.

However, it’s not an easy process, even though the day of minor delinquents lodged in juvenile homes is well scheduled with shared activities so that they do not feel cut off from everyone. Still, it has been observed that often their behaviour does not change much and it becomes difficult to mould their hardened criminalised mind. It, in turn, results in increasing ruckus inside the premises.

Last February, around 35 inmates escaped from a juvenile home in Kingsway camp while the security staff of the dorm were busy in shifting two of the inmates to another centre. Similarly, in December last year, around 34 juveniles managed to escape from the same site after burning blankets and bedsheets inside the juvenile home. It created panic in the premises, which caught fire. In October last, around 50 boys torched down the superintendent’s office and triggered blasts by setting gas cylinders on fire.

In the wake of observed increase in frequency of brawls at juvenile homes, Delhi police is reportedly conducting a security audit to improve security facilities inside and outside these correctional facilities. Police officials are planning to increase the deployment of security staff outside the juvenile homes to nab the errant ones in case of jailbreak incidents.

Brief history

There are 27 shelter homes in the national Capital, including three observation homes. The latter were initially run by the state government. In October 1996, the Delhi government authorities approached an NGO, Prayas, because of its experience in working in the field. By July 2003, the home was fully entrusted to Prayas.

The Juvenile Justice Board orders children to juvenile homes only if they are younger than 16 years. Otherwise, they are taken to the special remand home for boys run by the Delhi government in north Delhi. Here, juveniles implicated in heinous crimes, such as murder, or repeat offenders, are housed.

The three observation homes in Delhi include: a) Prayas, behind Ambedkar Stadium (housing boys aged between 7-16 years); b) Sewa Kutir complex, Kingsway camp (for boys aged 16-18 years); and c) Nirmal Chayya Complex, Jail Road.

Across the country, there are approximately 711 Juvenile Justice Homes (observation, special remand and after-care homes), says a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights report.

Behavioural study of juveniles

Whenever a person in the age group of 7-18 is held by Delhi police and produced in the juvenile court, he is sent to the juvenile home. An accused, who has committed a non-serious offence, is first kept in the reception area where his personality traits, general demeanour and behavioural quirks are observed. On the basis of this study and according to his age, he gets shifted into one of the three juvenile homes.

A Day in a Juvenile home

A strict timetable to engage the children in constructive activities is planned which is supposed to be followed by all the inmates. They wake up at 7 am and get ready for breakfast that is served at around 8 am. Having their breakfast they are given an hour to relax with other inmates. At 9 am, they have to offer their prayers. After that, they get ready for their physical education classes, which vary according to their age.

From 9.30 am to 12.30 pm, the inmates get busy attending various study classes. The school-going children are sent to Maulana Sadan to get non-formal education. At Patel Sadan, the juvenile accused get vocational training and learn the art of making candles, flowerpots and showpieces.

Apart from this, the inmates are also encouraged to learn embroidery and painting. ?For children who have interest in craftwork, there is Subash Sadan to go to, where they get training in cutting and tailoring. Inmates with musical inclination are allowed to attend classes in Bal Sadan.

From 12.30 to 1:00 pm they can enjoy their lunchtime, which is organised at the playgrounds. Lunch is followed by an hour of rest then at 2 pm they are expected to join back the classes. From 2 to 4 pm, inmates have to attend counselling and psycological sessions. Counselling is undertaken by a government-appointed counsellor by the order of principal magistrate at the Juvenile Justice Board.

Mohammed Arif, superintendent at Prayas, who takes counselling sessions, said, ‘Most of these juvenile accused are a product of their environment where they are brought up. Some have parents who are very abusive. Many a times, the minor have absentee parents that leaves them in wrong peer groups.’

Following the counseling sessions, the young inmates have another half-hour break when they are given time to play their favourite games like basketball, cricket, badminton and volleyball till 6 pm. Further, they are served the dinner at 7.30 pm after which they are allowed to watch television till 10 pm until it is time to call it a day and go to bed.
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