UP State HRC notice to govt on plight of disabled children

LUCKNOW: Taking suo motu cognizance of the report “Abandoned To Fate” published in The Times of India (TOI) on Wednesday highlighting the plight of mentally retarded and multi-disabled destitute and lack of facilities such as shelter homes for them in the state, the UP Human Rights Commission (UPHRC) has issued notices to chief secretary and principal secretary, disabled welfare department, directing them to furnish a report to it within seven weeks on what steps the government has taken or proposes to take for the shelter, care, health etc of such persons.

In his order, Justice Vishnu Sahai, member, UP Human Rights Commission, described lack of basic facilities and shelter homes for mentally retarded and multi-disabled children and destitute as violation of the fundamental right to life guaranteed by the Constitution of India to all people and not just citizens.

The order said that it is well-settled that the right to shelter and health forms an integral part of the fundamental right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The order added that lack of basic facilities and shelter homes for disabled children and destitute also violates the preamble of the Constitution which provides for social and economic justice to all citizens.

Taking serious note of the various facts mentioned in the TOI report, the UPHRC order further stated that if mentally retarded and multi-disabled children and destitute are not getting basic minimum facilities and shelter, then that too is a violation of the directive principle of state policy contained in Article 39 (f) of the Constitution. The Article mentions that the state would endeavour to provide children all opportunities and facilities to help them develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. Further, children and youth should be protected against exploitation, moral and material abandonment, the Article adds.

The TOI report highlighted that while there are about one lakh mentally retarded children in the state, there are only two government shelter homes -one for boys in Allahabad and one for girls in Bareilly, with a capacity of 50 each. The report also said that the incidence of abandoning mentally retarded children is on the rise and since April 2006, 28 mentally retarded children have been found abandoned in Lucknow. Further, the report revealed that there are neither shelter homes nor any asylum for such children in UP. The report also brought to the fore that the centre for mentally challenged girls in the city is only meant for training and not a shelter home.

Justice Sahai in his order said that the commission found the case fit for taking a suo motu cognizance of the matter under section 12 (a) of the protection of the Human Rights Act 1993, under which provision has been made applicable to it by virtue of section 29 of the said Act. The commission took the TOI report on record and marked it as `A’ for identification and directed its office to register a suo motu petition and issue notices to the government officers for pursuing the matter.

19 Feb 2009,  Ashish Tripathi, TNN

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