June 28, 2020

AIDWA Demands Justice for Kanpur Shelter Home Girls

THE All India Democratic Women’s Association, represented by its national vice president Subhashini Ali, and by the Kanpur district committee president and secretary of AIDWA, Neelam Tiwari and Sudha Singh,  have submitted a memorandum to the chairperson of National Human Rights Commission on June 24, on the notice issued by the NHRC to Uttar Pradesh DGP and chief secretary regarding Rajkiya Bal Sanrakshan Griha, Kanpur.

AIDWA leaders welcomed the fact that the NHRC chairperson has taken suo moto cognizance of the extremely disturbing situation prevailing in the Shelter Home for Minor girls run by the government of Uttar Pradesh situated at Swaroop Nagar, Kanpur.

AIDWA had reacted very strongly to a press report in the Amar Ujala newspaper (Hindi) of June 21 that said that two of the girls from the Home who had tested Covid + were pregnant.  The report went on to say that one of the girls was found to be HIV positive and the other Hepatits C positive.

AIDWA leaders immediately met the senior superintendent of police, Dinesh Kumar, IPS and gave him a memorandum demanding a serious enquiry into this report.  They requested him to ensure that the management of the Home did not get any opportunity to remove or tamper with any information and documents.  The SSP gave them a patient hearing and instructed SP South (a lady) to carry out an investigation.

In the course of the day, conflicting reports about the number of Covid+ inmates and also the number of those who were pregnant kept appearing in various news channels and portals.  In the late evening, the figure was finally and officially reported as 57 Covid+ and seven pregnant (all minors). It was also reported that all the pregnant minors were POCSO victims who were pregnant at the time of their admission at the Home. The numbers were shocking and, therefore, the AIDWA leaders met the commissioner, Kanpur Division, Dr Sudhir M Bobde, IAS, and requested him to enquire into this matter.  They also asked him to ascertain whether the pregnant girls had been told that they had the legal right to demand an abortion and whether they had been receiving regular check-ups.  The commissioner  assured them that he would be looking into these and all other matters.

There are several issues regarding this case that the AIDWA brought to his notice. All of them point to extreme neglect, bordering on the criminal, by those responsible for the running of the Home and the welfare of the young inmates.  They said that the state government cannot be absolved of its responsibility either.

The memorandum highlighted the following points:

1. On June 14, one inmate was found to be Covid+ after five inmates were subjected to a  ‘random’ test.  (Here it must be mentioned that there are several versions of how the presence of the virus was discovered.)  What is irrefutable – and this has been pointed out by Shuchita Chaturvedi,  member, State Child Welfare Commission,  on June 23, during her visit to Kanpur – is that even after one child was found positive on the June 14,  the others were NOT QUARANTINED.  This is unforgivable.

2. The Home is extremely over-crowded.  It is supposed to accommodate about 100 minors but there are at least 171.  There are only nine toilets.  In such a situation, especially when sanitary conditions leave much to be desired, it is not surprising that the virus spread in the way that it did. 

3. Many young, mentally challenged minors, several of them rape victims, are also lodged here.  They have delivered babies and, we have been told, they are not able to look after them so they are looked after by the other inmates some of whom are 10 and 12 years of age.  It is shocking that these mentally challenged pregnant minors were not helped to access abortions.  What is going to be the fate of their children and the mothers is beyond our imagination. 

4. As far as the seven pregnant girls of whom five are Covid+ are concerned, the reports of their being infected with HIV and Hepatitis C are now being denied. It is a fact, however, that earlier reports had given this information.  Even the notice sent by the NHRC to the UP officers mentions one inmate being HIV+.  Amar Ujala (June 24) reports that after being found to be Covid+, they were sent to the Rama Medical College (Mandhana) where their being pregnant was established.  How is it that the Home administration did not reveal this important fact?  After this, they were shifted to the Maternity Hospital and here the screening test showed one to be HIV positive and the other to be Hepatitis C positive.  Subsequently, their samples were sent to the microbiology lab of the Medical College and the results came negative for both. The point is that the administration of the Home was not able to give any information regarding the health status of the pregnant girls which is strange since they should have been examined by a gynaecologist every month.

5. A newspaper report on June 24 says that the district probation officer has filed an FIR at the Swaroop Nagar Police Station against unnamed persons for spreading false information about the medical status of the seven pregnant minors.

AIDWA hoped that the NHRC will ensure that the enquiry by an independent agency that it had ordered the government of UP to conduct, reveals the truth.  The lives of so many young girls who have already suffered terrible violence and hardship are at stake here.  Now many have also become victims of this dangerous disease.  AIDWA demanded that all steps must be taken to guarantee that no effort is spared to restore them to good health.  All that is needed to make the State Rescue Home a safe and congenial shelter must also be done.  Prima facie, the present administration and the district probation officer cannot be absolved of charges of dereliction of duty if not worse.  Remedial action must be taken.

AIDWA urged the NHRC to do all that is needed to see that the very unfortunate inmates of this Rescue Home are rendered justice and that their right to health, education and a safe environment are ensured.