SRINAGAR: With the number of ill-fated children who have lost their parents at an all-time high in Valley, there has been increase in the number or orphanages as well. But the debate is whether an orphanage is what an orphaned child really needs – for the evidence of weird impact of life in an orphanage on a child’s psyche and behavior are too serious to be brushed aside!
“Earlier also there were orphans but the culture of orphanages started only after the militancy started in the Valley and the number of widows and orphans skewed up in the wake of political turmoil,” says Muneer Ahmed Dar, chairman of Yateem Khana, Jawahar Nagar.
Dar says that his orphanage doesn’t not get any financial support from the government, and yet it’s able to generate Rs 1.5 crore annually. “We do not go door-to-door in order to collect donations for the orphans but people usually come to us and then we have monthly donors also who provide help and in this way we are able to generate Rs 1.5 crore annually which then goes into running different schemes for the welfare of orphaned children,” he adds.
He says they have a programme called ‘Higher Education Scholarship Programme’, which is helping some 220 children. “Under the scheme we pay Rs 6000 annually to each beneficiary,” says Dar, adding the scheme is for the students who have passed their matriculation exams and helps them financially until their graduation.
He says they have a scheme called GUIDE – Girl Upliftment in Domestic Environment ? which gives financial help to six orphan girls each from every district of the Valley, Yateem Khana provides them Rs 1000 on monthly basis for their education.
Under the ‘Basic Education Programme’, which is meant both for the boys and girls, there are 400 beneficiaries and each of these gets Rs 2000 annually. Dar says the organization also runs a programme called ‘Widow Welfare Programme’, under which 150 widows are provided financial assistance. ‘Marriage programme’ is also run by Yateem Khana, under which the organization bears the cost of marriages of girls who have no one to take care of it.
Although there are many welfare organizations that have been created to take care of the widows and orphans, but on ground only a few are visible when it comes to delivering on ground to help the helpless.
“Only a few organizations are actually working while the rest have taken it as a way to get money in the name of orphans which they use for their own welfare,” Dar regrets. Elaborating on the reasons for increasing attendance at orphanages, Dar says “apart from economic constraints, unemployment, death of bread-winner and mother’s engagement in tedious jobs (after her husband’s death) are some of the reasons for it.”
“Our organization looks after 700 orphaned children and 150 widows of which 60 children are in special homes, one at Jawahar Nagar and another at Kulgam,” he says, adding the remaining beneficiaries live with their families.
Although Dar claims that “the only positive thing about the orphanages is that people know the children would not be exploited here,” however, there are other reasons which are a cause of worry. “After spending long time in orphanages many children find it difficult to assimilate with their families and society in general,” agrees Dar.
Social activist, Abdul Rashid Hanjoora, says “child rights are abused in orphanages as these institutes provide hostel-like facilities and a child is denied of the family life and family care.”
As per his survey, there are 18 orphanages and 17 Ashrams and Nari Nikatans in the Valley “who don’t provide social service actually needed by the hapless people.“In these institutes a child is abused and is not treatment and nourished the way he or she should be,” Hanjoora says, adding “and the most important thing is that a child remains isolated from the society and carries a social stigma of being brought up in an orphanage all through his life.”
Instead of establishing and donating money to these orphanages, people should give money for the community rehabilitation which experts believe is the only solution. “In Kashmir there are more than 100,000 orphans who need rehabilitation and not these special homes or orphanages,” Hanjoor adds.-SANA