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Sunday, 25 October 2015
Mentally-challenged Poor Children Suffer in TN
There are over 60,000 differently abled children below the age of six
in Tamil Nadu, according to the 2011 census. Nearly 7000 children in
the same age group are mentally challenged and at least one per cent is
believed to be destitute. All of them fall under the category of
children with special needs. Despite the huge number, there is no
government-run home for such children.
"The number of destitute
and mentally challenged children below 18 years is much higher. Despite
our repeated requests to the Social Defence and Social Welfare
departments, nothing has been done to take care of the sorrowful plight
of these children," said Chezhian Ramu, former Vellore district Child
Welfare Committee chairperson.
According to Section 2 (d) of the
Juvenile Justice Act of 2000, a child in need of care and protection
also includes a child who is mentally or physically challenged or
suffering from terminal or incurable disease with none to support.
47 of the model rules for management of juvenile and special homes
stipulates that every state government should run at least one home for a
cluster of closely located districts for the destitute mentally
challenged and children with multiple disabilities.
should have comprehensive care and rehabilitation centre involving the
local communities, NGOs and should include specialized services with
inputs from experts or academic institutions. Despite the stipulation,
activists say the state government has not opened a single home so far.
there are three government-aided homes run by NGOs - Bala Vihar and
Arunodayam in Chennai and Arivagam in Mayiladuthurai - which care for
both mentally and physically challenged children.
Arunodayam is a
reception home where children are kept only temporarily and Bala Vihar,
according to activists, has stopped taking in children referred by the
So the only home that is still admitting
mentally-challenged destitute children is Arivagam, Mayiladuthurai. But
this home is battling with a large number of children and scanty
"We now have 228 children, including the hearing and
visually impaired, physically and mentally challenged. Our capacity is
100 and 83 of them are bedridden and require attention of doctors. They
need periodic medical tests and treatment. We do not have sufficient aid
to provide, so we shell out money from our pockets and take them for
treatment," said M Gnanasambandam, superintendent, Arivagam Children's
Home, Arivagam After Care Organisation, Mayiladuthurai.
that many children either run away or go on leave with their families
without returning or die a silent death without proper medical care.
else can we do. I still admit children with special needs. But what
happens after that becomes questionable, as we do not have the required
staff and facilities which deprive these children the services needed
for their survival and rehabilitation," he added.
The plight of
Arivagam and other NGOs and the need for a state-run home was also
pointed out in the Comptroller and Auditor General Report, 2008.
However, activists claim that the situation remains unchanged till date.
is it possible for three NGOs to take in all mentally challenged
children from the whole of Tamil Nadu," questioned Chandra
Thanikachalam, vice-president, Indian Council for Child Welfare.
absence of more such homes force these children to face a lot of
trouble in getting admission and their guardians also face difficulties
visiting these homes from different parts of the state. We need a
different setup and approach for these children. While the state has
been progressing in other areas, I hope something concrete comes up in
this too," Thanikachalam said.