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Ambika Pandit, TNN | Feb 7, 2013, 01.38AM IST
NEW DELHI: The eyes are still innocent and the voice timid but there's blood on her petite hands. Ria (name changed) admits she killed a year-old boy — son of the man who sexually exploited her for several years — last December. The 16-year-old is now lodged at Delhi government's Nirmal Chhaya Complex next to Tihar Jail in west Delhi. She's anxious about the future and tormented by the past. She even tried to hurt herself by piercing a wrist with a needle, and is under medication for stress.
Counsellors at Nirmal Chhaya's mental health unit say the roots of Ria's problems go a long way back. As a child, she suffered intense emotional neglect that led her to seek comfort outside home. She also stopped going to school after Class 8.
Broken families, sexual and physical abuse in childhood and psychological stress form a pattern in the lives of Nirmal Chhaya's inmates. Staff of the mental health unit, which is run by Manas Foundation, say there are three other girls in the observation home, and the youngest is just 10 years old. She was brought a few days ago after being caught stealing in a high-end mall. A native of Madhya Pradesh, the girl came to Delhi with her grandmother after her mother deserted her alcoholic father.
A study by Manas Foundation, which provides counselling to boys and girls lodged at various state-run observation homes for juveniles in conflict with law, shows that broken homes are an important factor behind children turning to crime. Migration is also seen as a factor that leads children to delinquent behavior.
An assessment based on the profiles of 170 juvenile boys over the last six months found that almost 56% boys had disturbed family backgrounds.
Close scrutiny shows that, of this lot, 38% came from single parent families and 16% were from broken families.
Their involvement in crime ranges from petty theft to heinous crimes like murder and rape. While 87% were found to be first-time offenders, 13% had a history of delinquent behavior.
The profiling of 170 boys is based on the psycho-social assessment where it comes through that 38% reported trying mind altering substances like ganja, smack and correction fluid. About 22% boys reported occasional use and 16% were cases of substance abuse.
That the boys hail from families with difficult circumstances and many end up as dropouts comes through in data where 21% had never been to school, 69% had just managed to complete primary education and barely 10% had gone up to high school and beyond.
Monica Kumar, clinical psychologist and managing trustee, Manas Foundation, points out that at the centres where they work, every child who comes to the children's home or observation home through the Child Welfare Committee or the Juvenile Justice Board is supposed to undergo a counselling session first.
"Based on the interaction, a psycho-social analysis is built to recommend the line of action for the child during the stay at the home. It ranges from individual counselling, psychiatric interventions to group counselling and medication plan, where required. Long-term interventions are also suggested and the same files are sent to the Child Welfare Committees and Juvenile Justice Board during review of cases," Kumar added.