Illegal kid’s home in Kanchi shut

KANCHEEPURAM: It was a ‘Karunai Illam’ (house of compassion) that had a lone toilet for about 47 inmates, including 19 girls, who are students of LKG to college.

The Sathyajothi Karunai Illam contained only one semblance of a bathroom. This sorry spectacle witnessed in the Illam was allowed to go on since 2003, under the guise of an orphanage at Olimohammad Pettai on the way to Kilambi (there is one more orphanage by the same name in the vicinity), less than three km from the Collector’s office “without any valid papers whatsoever”.

On Thursday, it was closed down all of a sudden by the District Social Welfare Department (DSWD) in conjunction with District Child Welfare Committee (DCWC) because the “rented home” had flouted all norms laid down under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act 2006. After a heated argument with the raiding members of the Welfare Department and Committee, Sathyajothi’s founder-runner Karmegam said that since he did not receive any grant from the government he should not be construed as having flouted the rules.

When the raiding authorities pointed out to him that under the Act an “observation home” would mean a home established by a State government or by a voluntary organisation and certified by the State government, Karmegam said he had no knowledge such a thing existed.

The DSWD officer Devi Kumar told Express that though Karmegam claimed he had applied for a temporary registration in 2006, he did not have any papers to support his claim.

Devi Kumari said according to the Act, a Sathyajothi – kind of observation home having 47 inmates, should have a 1,500 sq ft drawing room, a 800 sq ft dining hall, a 500 sq ft library, a kitchen, a store room of 250 sq ft each, a 300 sq ft recreation hall, a 120 sq ft counselling room and five bathrooms (including toilet) of 125 sq ft each. Karmegam’s 1000-odd sq ft narrow oldfashioned house was a far cry from these specified requirements of the law, observed Saiznuddin Mohmammed, a Chengalpattu-based member of the DCWC during the inspection.

Moreover, Karmegam had a deposit of only Rs 1,000 in the home’s account, whereas the law requires that the home should maintain at least a deposit of two months’ expenses: in this case around Rs 30,000.

After ordering the closure of the home with immediate effect, the Welfare Department has housed the students at a temporary place at Pillayarpalayam.

Devi Kumari said an alternative place would soon be found in Kancheepuram itself since most of the students are studying in and around Kancheepuram. Except two students one each from Salem and Ambattur, the rest are from Kancheepuram.

Asked why it had taken such long time (7 years) to detect the irregularity, one officer said it was impossible for his department to do a house-to-house search, and unless specific complaints are received they are helpless

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