Escape of juveniles exposes Delhi’s shaky reform system

TNN | Feb 25, 2014, 03.30 AM IST

NEW DELHI: After Delhi came under President's Rule last week, lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung made state-run homes for women and children a priority area, but Monday's incident has placed a question mark on the state's own monitoring mechanism. The LG is likely to review the case on Tuesday.

In December also, juveniles had vandalized the same state-run shelter and escaped. The incidents reveal a clear lack of coordination among various departments, agencies, the judicial system and Delhi Police to create a mechanism for lasting reform. For instance, despite repeated damage and vandalism to the building and its dormitories since August, Public Works Department has been moving slow on restoration work.

In October, when 33 juveniles escaped from the facility after a night of violence, then chief minister Sheila Dikshit had cited the code of conduct to explain the government's reluctance to take any concrete step.

On August 28, the state was a helpless spectator as five inmates of the same observation home escaped. The five boys were moved there after it came to light that they were involved in the vandalism reported from another state-run home at Majnu ka Tila where they held the authorities hostage for 15 hours in a protest that damaged the complex extensively.

After the August incidents, a joint inspection team of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) from Majnu ka Tila complex and the Kingsway Camp facility explored the reasons for the inmates' frustration and their constant urge to escape. DCPCR delivered a hard-hitting report on the "deplorable state' of the juvenile homes.

About the premises at Majnu ka Tila, the report states, "These homes (there are three segregated facilities) are huge barracks with dilapidated bathrooms and toilets. There is hardly any open space for inmates to participate in outdoor games or any such activity. Some of the inmates reported that they found insects in food". At the Observation Home-II in Kingsway Camp, the inspection team found that the inmates were not well clothed and without proper bedding, among other problems.