PANAJI: Arren Xess, a young man ‘in conflict with law’ (in less polite terms, a juvenile delinquent) is caught and housed in Apna Ghar, Merces, not far from Panaji.
Apna Ghar is funded by public to be like home to children such as Arren who have come away from their home.
Apna Ghar is expected to provide such children parenting in the absence of their loving and caring parents – to provide them necessary resources, environment, and services for their all-round development.
But children like Arren find Apna Ghar horrible. Living conditions force them to think of escape. Several of them escape.
Arren has escaped five times. And entered every time after escape ‘in conflict with law’, what with thefts and other activities.
After a few escapes, Arren, on being caught, was placed in custody of advocate, Mr Emidio Pinho, director of the SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now), India. Arren even in the custody of advocate Emidio carried on with his delinquent activities.
Mr Levinson Martins, deputy collector and SDM, who conducted an inquiry into ‘Escape of Children from Apna Ghar’, was puzzled over the fact that after Arren was caught by police for his latest delinquent activities, he was given into the custody back again of advocate Emidio “even though he (Emidio) was unable to prevent him from coming in conflict with law.”
Such brazen, unfair misuse of office could only be possible because advocate Emidio, who has been an old player in civil society work on child abuse, is an important executive of the NGO, Elshadai and SCAN (which is funded by Elshadai). And Elshadai controls so much of everything at Apna Ghar that Mr Martins could not help being intrigued.
“During the enquiry it was found that,” said Mr Martins in his report, “Elshadai is providing services to the inmates of Apna Ghar (Elshadai and SCAN India are managed by the same management committee). Though, previously there were NGOs such as CRG, Jan Ugahi and Sangath, (which) were providing services to the inmates of Apna Ghar, since last few years only Elshadai was provided permission to conduct activities with the inmates. It is not clear as to why the permission to other NGOs was stopped and permission was granted to only Elshadai to conduct activities with the children at Apna Ghar.”
Mr Martins observed, “Elshadai has been involved in various activities at Apna Ghar and its staff are members of bodies related to Apna Ghar, which causes conflict of interest besides an element of interestedness does affect a fair monitoring and review of activities/services of E lshadai.”
Mr Martins found that the Elshadai staff members on the North and South Child Welfare Committees. Elshadai has been provided permission and place to run a non-formal education programme at Apna Ghar. The organisation has been provided permission and place to run an after-care home at Apna Ghar.
Mr Martins found that advocate Emidio was everywhere: he represented the children in conflict with law at Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), he was declared a “Fit Person” to take the custody of child in conflict with law, and he was given the custody of the delinquent boys by the JJB, and his SCAN India was a member of Advisory Board formed to inspect the various institutional and non-institutional services.
Elshadai runs a non-formal education centre. Mr Martins found that, there had been two incidents of escape from the centre. Arren with three other boys escaped one day after the school finished at 4 pm from the front gate. “It was found that there is no caretaker present when the boys are at the non-formal education centre. The caretakers only escort the children till the non-formal school.”
The Martins inquiry found that boys were able to procure tobacco, bidi, cigarettes, etc and pass them among themselves at the centre. Children consumed tobacco at the centre. They hid their tobacco in the toilet and would go to the toilet and consume tobacco, boys as well as a girl. The toilet was common for boys and girls.
“When enquired about the source of tobacco,” reports Mr Martins “the children informed that they got it from the mason who was doing repair work in the building. The question is that, how the said children got access to an outsider and how they managed to take tobacco, which is a prohibitory item from an outsider. This shows the major flaws in the security system at the non-formal education centre.”