Srinagar: In a shocking revelation, it has come to fore that the Jammu and Kashmir Social Welfare Department has no rehabilitation centre for abandoned children and for children with special needs.
A doctor at GB Pant hospital, talking on condition of anonymity, said that when no couples or non-government organisations (NGOs) turned up to adopt two abandoned babies with special needs, Salman and Burhan, in their hospital, the hospital authorities wrote to the Social Welfare Department seeking their help.
“We were shocked when the social welfare department replied that they had no facility to rehabilitate even abandoned children, let alone abandoned children with special needs,” the doctor said.
Kashmir Reader had earlier reported that 11-month-old Salman and six-month-old Burhan, forsaken by their parents, were being fostered by the medical staff at GB Pant hospital. Salman has congenital neurological disorder, but his health has much improved following two surgeries. Burhan has hypoxemia or brain injury and his milestones (of growth) are delayed.
The hospital authorities say that both infants need special attention, but there is no place where they can be sent to.
When inquired about the facilities for welfare of abandoned babies with special needs, Director Social Welfare Hashmat Ali Yatoo said he had no idea whether they exist or not.
“I have no idea about such centers. I will ask the concerned person to talk to you,” Yatoo said. It is still unknown who that “concerned person” is.
Yatoo also had no information of rehabilitation programmes for children with special needs, despite him being the head of the Composite Regional Centre in Srinagar, established by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment to rehabilitate persons with special needs.
Secretary Voluntary Medicare Society (VMS) Morifat Quadri, who works for the rehabilitation of children with special needs, said that the state government had nothing to offer for abandoned babies and children with special needs.
“There is no policy, plan, or infrastructure to take care of children with special needs,” Quadri said. “The social welfare department has nothing to offer.”
He said that there is not even a single day-care school for children with special needs, not to speak of rehabilitation facilities for them.
“The non-governmental organisations working here have day-care facilities. But they do not have a night-care system. The government has neither of the two,” Quadri said.
“The government can use its schools and other infrastructure for the rehabilitation of special children. It is unfortunate they have done nothing. This area has been the most neglected one,” he said.
The Government of India was sponsoring various projects and funds for the rehabilitation of special-needs children, Quadri said, adding, “But on the ground there is nothing.”
Quadri’s VMS has 85 special-needs children, who come by day and leave by evening.
“NGOs can’t afford to keep them for nights. We do not have the infrastructure and the money to build shelters for such children. The government has resources, but it is not doing anything. It can fund some accredited NGOs and task them to work for the rehabilitation of children with special needs, the abandoned ones as well,” he said.