However, despite this significant 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 address the 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.
Rule 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.
These homes should have a comprehensive care and rehabilitation centre involving local communities and NGOs, and should include specialised services with inputs from experts or academic institutions. Despite the stipulation, activists say the State government has not opened a single home so far.
However, there are three government-aided homes run by NGOs - Bala Vihar and Arunodayam in Chennai and Arivagam in Mayiladuthurai - which take care of both mentally and physically challenged children. Arunodayam is a reception home where children are lodged temporarily and Bala Vihar, according to activists, has stopped taking in children referred by the government.
He added that many children either run away or go on leave with their families without returning or die without proper medical care.
“What 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 deprives 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.
“How 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.
Source : The New Indian Express, 24th Oct 2015