(A news report that I got published in The Hindustan Times On November 15,2000)
At the gate things are normal. When one crosses the gate ,one finds oneself in a different world,the world of mentally retarded children who are confined to the four walls of school building.The government school for mentally retarded children situated in Ashok Nagar Allahabad has 39 children.The school is run under the aegis of Sate Handicapped Welfare Department.
However,the school is in shambles.The inmates of the school ,most of whom are in tattered clothes,are living in unhygienic condition. The lavatories are not regularly cleaned.This is despite the fact that 13 officials are deployed in the area to look after these children.Ghanshyam Mishra,officer in-charge of the school,complains grant of Rs 500 per head is not enough to meet the requirements. “How can you expect us to make them available food,medicines, and clothes in such meagre amount ?,” he asked.
He said letters to increase the grant by Rs 250 per child have been sent to the Handicapped Welfare Department but nothing has been done so far.”The Government has failed to come up with concrete measures for the children’s rehabilitation,” he adds.
Those children whose IQ level ranges between 20-70 are dropped here by the police after completing necessary formalities. The children mostly caught at the railway stations and other areas are first sent to the observation homes for 14 days and later to this school if they show symptoms of mental retardness.What troubles is the fact that the school lacks systematic method of categorizing them.Thus,proper medical treatment is hardly possible.With the change of time,their retardness level also increases and later they become incapable of doing simple work.
However,a doctor from Tej Bahadur Sapru Hospital (Beli Hospital) makes routine visit to this school.But this cannot yield desired results because those children need specific medical treatment.The roof of the school building has developed cracks and during the rainy season,it starts leaking. These children need to be shifted to some safer place,but till now no arrangements have been made. When one looks into the eyes of these children ,one realizes that they want to say something but their mental state restricts them.
Manish,who hails from Varanasi ,wants to return to his home,but his family members are no longer keen to take him back.The world outside attracts them but they cannot venture out.”We take them out on picnic once in a week,” said Mr.Mishra.The park meant for them is in dilapidated state.A television set,which remains non functional for most of the time,is what exists in the name of entertainment.The school has two teachers,but owing to lack of reading and writing material the teachers fail to impart quality education.
Children’s Day comes and goes but no one thinks about them or does anything for this miserable lot.