At least 12 children have died in a government-run home in New Delhi in the last eight months. Apparently there was no one to attend on them.
Five of these children were abandoned newborns and four others had suffered from some disorder or other. Most of the dead were girls. They died slow deaths in the home, which presents a dilapidated picture, what with broken windowpanes and is generally unkempt.
With just one caretaker for a home that accommodates 15 children, it is no wonder that even minor ailments prove fatal. Medical attention doesn't seem to be any priority there.
A Right to Information application earlier this year blew the lid off this death trend when the National Human Rights Commission data revealed as many as 16 children have died at the Anukriti Balika on Jail Road, Hari Nagar in 2007-08.
But investigations by the Hindustan Times newspaper showed that the actual number was 12 and all deaths had taken place after August 2007.
"Most of the children who were admitted in the home were in extremely poor health," a government official explained.
Data from the home revealed that five newborns from Safdarjung Hospital died within months of their admission in the home. The seven slightly bigger kids (from six months to four years of age) died after prolonged illnesses.
Four of them were either physically challenged or had some health disorder since birth and had apparently been abandoned because of that.
Bharati Sharma, member of Child Welfare Committee of West Delhi, said these deaths clearly showed that children with poor health, especially girls, were abandoned as they were considered a burden.
"Most of the children are in extremely poor health at the time of admission in the homes," she said.
The NHRC's RTI reply also revealed that 21 children had died in another child home on the Jail Road in 2006-07. Except one, who died of beating by the caretaker, all the other children died of illnesses.
Raj Mangal Prasad of NGO Pratidhi said, "Whatever data government has is enough for the government to take action. If the government maintains proper data, the death toll would be higher and a much darker picture would emerge."
Meantime the federal minister for Women and Child Development, Renuka Chowdhury, has highlighted the poor condition of children's homes in Delhi in a letter to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
Chowdhury has cited incidents of torture and inhuman treatment of children in many such homes.