Three inmates of Allahabad’s juvenile home — Rajkiya Bal Grih — died over the last three days apparently because of hunger. All three were aged between one and two years. Three other inmates, also in the same age group, have been admitted to Sarojini Naidu Bal Chikitsalay, a children’s hospital, in critical condition.
Waking up from their slumber, some officers of the local administration visited the orphanage on Monday and found that many other toddlers were also suffering from severe malnutrition because of unavailability of food for the last one month.
The district administration has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident. The inquiry report has to be submitted within 15 days.
Raj Shekhar, district magistrate, said the children who died had been admitted to hospital a few days ago in critical condition. “There is certainly a problem in the orphanage. An inquiry has been ordered. We are developing a mechanism to avoid any recurrence of such incidents,” he said.
He said Jagat, the first child to die on Friday, was two-years-old. He was suffering from cerebral palsy. The second child who died on Saturday morning was also suffering from the same disease. The third one, who died on Sunday night, was a girl. She was very weak.
An officer, on the condition of anonymity, said that the supply of food-grains was disrupted last month because of lack of communication between the district administration and the orphanage staff.
“The orphanage staff had stopped communicating with the authorities after six of their colleagues were punished by a local court in a case of sexual harassment of girl inmates there. The cook had also stopped coming to the orphanage last month because there was nothing in the kitchen. Some outsiders, who regularly gave various items for the inmates, also brought eatables for them off and on. But these were consumed by the slightly stronger of the toddlers, forcing many to starve,” he said on the condition of anonymity.
“In fact there were five children who had been admitted to the hospital a few days ago. The doctors had confirmed that they were on the verge of starvation death. Three of them died. The remaining three are battling for life,” he added.
“The children under treatment don’t suffer from any specific disease. But they are very weak and seriously unwell. There is little hope of their survival,” said Dr PC Mishra, head of the Pediatric Ward of the hospital.
The orphanage located in Shivkoti area of Allahabad city was in the news in April this year when the police had arrested many employees for sexually assaulting three girl inmates.
Later on, a local court had sentenced Vidya Bhushan Ojha, a peon, to life term. Seven years of imprisonment was awarded to Suman Srivastava, assistant superintendent of the home when the crime was committed. Four Class IV employees — Harsu Lal Pandey, Vinod Kumar, Raman Singh and Vineet had got one-year of imprisonment. There was shortage of staff after these employees were jailed.
The district administration hurriedly held a meeting on Monday and supplied all the necessary items — mainly milk and porridge — to the orphanage. The administration also deputed government doctors to visit the home every day. A magistrate will also inspect the home every alternate day and the chief development officer would inspect the place every week. The district magistrate himself will inspect the juvenile home every month.