Friday, March 20, 2009
Indian NGO Blames Sexual Exploitation of Girls at Rehabilitation Center On Lack of State Regulations To Monitor the NGOs Operating Them
The failure of India's Himachal Pradesh government to frame guidelines to monitor the working of NGOs and rehabilitation centres was one of the reasons for the shocking case of four teachers sexually exploiting six girls at a centre-cum-hostel here, claims a Shimla-based NGO, Society for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies (SDRS). The SDRS claims that the National Policy For Persons with Disability Act requires the states to frame guidelines to regulate NGOs.
“The state (Himachal Pradesh) is yet to frame guidelines for the NGOs that are registered under the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, for taking care of special children,” SDRS chairman Ajai Srivastava said. He said that to date only Goa has come up with guidelines under the act. According to Srivastava, Prerna Rehabilitation Centre, where the sexual exploitation occurred, was working illegally for the past four years and the government was not aware of its activities. “The centre had been working illegally since 2004 and it got a registration certificate from the state Department of Social Justice and Empowerment in November 2008 on the recommendation of a district welfare officer,” Srivastava said. “At the time of registration, no proper inspection of the centre was done,” alleged Srivastava, who is also a member of the Rehabilitation Council of India of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. “After the registration, no government official bothered to inspect its working.” The centre also did not have proper classrooms for special children. The lone female teacher of the centre was on maternity leave for the past three months. There were no female helpers to take care of the needs of the students. The centre has more than 25 special students and was getting a monthly grant of Rs.30,000 under the state-sponsored Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme. The grant was stopped after the episode was uncovered. Srivastava said most of the teachers in such centres are not even registered as professionals with the Rehabilitation Council of India, a mandatory requirement under the Rehabilitation Council of India Act of 1992.
Official sources said the government has no record of the total number of rehabilitation centres working in the state. The Social Justice and Empowerment Director, Subashish Panda, said: “We are keeping vigil only on the working of state-funded NGOs that are running rehabilitation centres.” Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said: “It’s a serious issue and I have directed authorities to maintain records of all the rehabilitation centres, both aided and non-aided, being run by the NGOs in the state. We have decided to frame specific rules in order to bring all of them under the ambit of law.”