Monday, 10 January 2011

Youth correction centre in dismay

Arman is only 12. His bad luck compelled him to land in custody at a juvenile development centre in Jessore over a theft charge at this age.

The shocking incident happened when Arman as a matter of venture left Chittagong for Dhaka by train along with some of his friends and then again they departed for Patuakhali by launch. When they reached Patuakhali, Arman was, somehow, arrested by police over a theft incident.

Police sent him to custody in a correction centre for children named 'Kishore Unnayan Kendra (Juvenile Development Centre)' at Pulerhat in Jessore. The very centre is now the address of Arman for the last few months.

It is learnt that Arman's parents are reluctant to take him back any more. He hailed from baddarhat in Chittagong.

Another bad luck child is Farhad, 11, who is also in the centre for three months. His village is at Prembag of Jessore. His parents have kept him here as he doesn't go to school and disobeyed them, he said. His poor father, Ishak, is a worker of a local saw mill. Farhad wants to go back to his parents now. Sagor, 12, is at the centre for two years. His mother married with another person and left his father. Even, he didn't get shelter to his poor father. After losing his own residence, he moved from one place to another to have a shelter.

Police arrested him in an egg-theft incident from Alamdanga two years ago. Later, he was carried to the centre via different hands. Sagor could not tell what would be his next address after he left the centre.
Niranjon Sarker, 17, of Masterpara in Joypurhat Sadar was sentenced to five years imprisonment in jail by a court for raping a girl. During the incident, Niranjon was about 14 and a student of Class IX while the girl was in VII of Khanjanpur High School. A court sent Niranjon to Kishore Unnayan Kendra as per law. He is here for about three and a half years.
Like them, a total of 115 children and juveniles are at the centre at Pulerhat in Jessore. Their ages varies from 7 to 17 years. The children charged with different crimes, from theft to murder, are kept at the centre. When the missing children are found, they are also kept there until their addresses were identified.
The said cases were found during a visit to the centre arranged by Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), the national news agency and funded by UNICEF under the Project of Communication Activities in Developing Children and Women (third phase).
The children are usually sent to the centre for two ways for their mental and behavioral corrections. Firstly, they are sent there on decision of the juvenile-court for different allegations-- from theft to murder-- against them. Some are sent on applications from their parents when they become so disobedient to their them.
Like the Jessore juvenile development centre established in 1985, there are two other centres in Bangladesh. Jessore centre cover three divisions-- Rajshahi, Khulna and Barisal, sources said.
The juvenile court here sat on every Monday. When the children were brought at the centre, their backgrounds were analysed and later the Judges set their fates. The centre's officials take initiatives to identify addresses of the missing children and send them to their residents.
UNICEF has been working from June 2009 to ease and accelerate the process of releasing the children from the centre and sending them to their homes.
It is providing support to the centre in creating a congenial atmosphere here so that the children can flourish and correct themselves. It also counsels their parents.
Under initiative of UNICEF, an 11-member forum named 'Case Management Team (CMT)' is working in this regard. The CMT comprised the centre's chief (president), magistrate of the children court and other professionals.
Some 28 children, under the team, were rehabilitated from June, 2009 till December 28, 2010 and 15 others are waiting to be freed, according to sources.
However, while visiting the centre, it was found that the children are not getting due rights from here. The centre is facing various problems, added the sources.
The post of the director of the centre is laying vacant for a long. Assistant Director Md Fazlur Rahman was appointed as its acting director.
The vocational courses, that are taught to the children to make them skilled, are backdated. UNICEF sources said that they would take measures to make the courses modern.
The children don't get desired medical facilities, sufficient food and legal support from the juvenile development centre which is meant for children's mental correction and physical growth.
Most of the children are suffering from various health problems, including skin diseases, but are not getting medicinal treatment; their clothes are dirty; there is no doctor or assistant to attend them at the centre.
As a result, behavioral correction and mental boom of the children are being hampered though it has been founded to do so.
Their apatite and nutrition is not fulfilled for lack of adequate rice and lower quality of curry, alleged the children.
Each of the children is given every time only one small plate of rice that hardly fulfill food-demand of the physically growing children; one-fourth of an egg to each of them; and meat only a day per week.
Only Tk 37 is allotted for food purpose of each child per day, the sources said, posing a question "How the centre will arrange proper food for them by this money."
Some children are bound to stay at the centre for years even without being sentenced for delay of disposal of cases in the children court.
Shimul, 17, of Amlai village of Sharsha thana in Jessore was sent here around three and a half years ago after a murder case was filed against him.
Interestingly, he is yet to be sentenced in the case as the concerned court could not yet deliverer its verdict on the case for not finishing investigation report. Shimul doesn't know how many days he will have to stay here.
A high official of the children court, seeking anonymity, said, "It (delay of disposal of cases) is an overall problem of the judiciary, not only the children court. The serious cases like murder are usually delayed as police could not submit probe report in time."
Though the centre is supposed to have facilities of teaching the children from class one to five, actually there is no existence of Class IV and Class V there. Curricula of the vocational training is also backdated.
Assistant Director of the centre Md Fazlur Rahman said the children are kept here and released as per decision of the concerned court.
"They are provided psychological, academic and technical education for their mental correction and their self dependency," he said.
Fazlur Rahman said, "We have already sent letter on several occasions to the Social Welfare Directorate to increase budget for the centre but we didn't get any response yet."

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