NHRC serves notice to Kerala government after nine girls flee shelter home

The children were found safe at the house of the relative of one of the girls in Ernakulam within a few hours.

BySreerag PS

Published Nov 16, 2022 | 7:14 PM Updated Nov 16, 2022 | 8:05 PM


Taking cognisance of news reports on the recurring instances of girls fleeing shelter homes in Kottayam, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday, 16 November, suo motu issued notices to the state government and the police.

Nine girls — some of them survivors in POCSO cases — had gone missing from a shelter home at Manganam in the district on Monday, 14 November.

The police found them safe a few hours later at the house of a girl’s relative at Elanji in Koothattukumam, Ernakulam. The children reportedly refused to return to the home run by an NGO.

The NHRC said it was the third such incident reported from the district in recent months.

Lack of supervision

In the notice issued to the state chief secretary, the commission observed a lack of supervision and effective monitoring of the shelter home run by ‘Mahila Samakhya.’ The home has the state Social Justice Department and Child Welfare Committee’s accreditation.

“Accordingly, the Commission has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Kerala, calling for a report of the incident along with the action taken report”, NHRC said in a statement.

“It should also be reported whether there was any involvement of a public servant from the Department of Social Justice or Child Welfare Committee to enable the girls to run away from the shelter home”, the statement added.

The commission also asked the chief secretary to “explain the reasons for the dissatisfaction and disillusionment of the missing girls with their stay in the said shelter home.”

Additionally, the commission asked the director general of police to report the status of the case registered. It also sought a status report on the implementation of ‘the Standard Operating Procedure for Combating Trafficking of Persons in India,’ which the commission had issued in 2017.

Standard operating procedures were drawn up to prevent trafficking of the vulnerable sections of society. The commission has sought replies to the notices in two weeks.

The rights panel also noted that the inmates apparently were “not satisfied or happy with their stay” in the Manganam shelter home, adding, there was a prima facie possibility of some kind of “inhuman and undignified treatment being meted out to these girls forcing them to leave.”

Rapporteur to visit Kottayam

Considering the recurring instances of children running away from shelter homes, the NHRC has asked its Special Rapporteur Hari Sena Verma to visit Kottayam and submit a report within two months.

“He is also expected to suggest measures to avoid such incidents in future”, the NHRC statement said.

The commission reiterated that the missing children could be sexually abused or pushed into forced labour. It also stated the children could also be put up for illegal adoption or forced into wedlock.

“That is why it issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Combating Trafficking of Persons in India in the year 2017 but it has observed that concerted efforts from all stakeholders need to be augmented to eradicate a social menace like human trafficking,” the commission stated.