Juvenile crime registers dip, more repeat offenders
In January 2012, a 14-year-old Bathinda boy was sent to juvenile home in Faridkot after being charged under the NDPS Act. Released on bail a few months later, he was back in the juvenile home on June 6 facing fresh charges under the NDPS Act.
Two juveniles accused of theft were sent to Hoshiarpur observation home in January and October last year. Granted bail, the first was back in the home in October and second in January this year, once again facing charges of theft.
In Ludhiana, two inmates released last year returned to the juvenile home in January and February respectively this year. They now face another trail for theft and brawl.
While in one year, at least five juveniles have returned to the observation homes in Punjab, six others sent to Ludhiana observation home on charges of theft, were shifted to a jail after being slapped with more serious charges for sodomy, vandalism and assault. On December 15 last year, the six were transferred to borstal jail (for inmates aged between 18 to 21) in Ludhiana after observation home superintendent told a local court that they vandalised property, beat up other children and sodomised a 16-year-old inmate.
Through a notification dated August 31, 2012, Punjab had segregated the three observation homes for boys according to the age of juveniles. Now all inmates aged between 7 to 15 are placed in the observation home at Faridkot and those between 16 and 18 years in Hoshiarpur and Ludhiana. Of the 141 inmates currently in the three homes, 84 per cent are between 16 to 18 years. The one for girls up to 18 years in Jalandhar has 15 inmates.
The figures for the last three years reveal that the number of juveniles sent to the four juvenile homes is falling. Incidentally, more juveniles sent to the observation homes are facing rape charges than that of murder. Of the 584 juveniles sent to juvenile homes in in 2010-11, 73 were facing rape charges and 63 murder. In 2011-12, the total figure went marginally down to 509 of which 60 were accused of rape and 64 of murder. This year, among the 267 juveniles sent to observation homes so far, 42 face charges of rape and 27 of murder.
The falling numbers have eased the problem of overcrowding in juvenile homes. "As of now, the total number of inmates is less than the capacity of these homes. Under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), we have sanctioned Rs 10 lakh to each juvenile home to improve its living conditions and infrastructure from year 2013 as part of Rs 9 crore earmarked under the scheme," says Gurkirat Singh, director, Department of Women and Child Development.
But child rights activist and Punjab and Haryana High Court advocate, Utsav Bains, who prepared a report on the condition of state's juvenile homes for the Union Women and Child Development Ministry in 2010, says these homes have the subculture of a prison. "The older boys operate in gangs and exploit the younger ones, physically and sexually. Those who complain are also subjected to other forms of torture. One child I spoke to had broken down saying no action was taken by the supervisor on his complaint of sodomy. Drugs are also smuggled in with the help of employees. The living condition of these homes is pathetic and condemns young minds to continued mental and physical torture," he added.
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