The Telegraph
Thursday , January 16 , 2014
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Gumla home’s ‘major’ headache
- Two guards assaulted over visitation rights, finger at over-age inmates

Ranchi, Jan. 15: Gumla observation home, which drew censure from child rights activists when a pressure cooker blew up in November 2013, injuring three resident boys, courted controversy yesterday as the same inmates were allegedly among those who assaulted guards to protest recent curbs on parental visits.

Though the attack against the two guards was fast controlled by the home in-charge Nagi Singh Kuntia, authorities are piggybacking on this and earlier incidents to stress on the need to verify inmate ages, with the implication that boys over 18 — who should not legally stay in the home — contribute to the unruly environment.

Kuntia, who is also the district’s social welfare officer and was in Ranchi today to seek guidance from her department on the next course of action, said: “We need to take a decision soon on how to move ahead. At present, the ages of six boys are suspect, though officially they are within 15 to 18 years old.”

The pressure cooker incident in November 2013 had first raised questions on the ages of the inmates. There are 57 inmates in the home, but six of them are older than 18, claimed Kuntia.

When child rights activists cried foul, citing children were forced by guards to cook dal, Kuntia countered the charges by saying they were not minors.

Taking the two incidents into account, Kuntia stressed that it was the onus of the district administration and district court to initiate procedures to determine the ages of inmates.

Broadly, the two incidents at Gumla observation home in November and January can be read as the state’s failure to address juvenile delinquency, with loopholes even in age verification.

Kuntia’s plea to the administration and court to determine the correct ages and take over-18 youths off her hands also has another reason.

“In my opinion, some of the boys are too old to eat the recommended amount of food for children. So I have requested Gumla deputy commissioner Veena Shrivastava to consider age verification of the boys. If they are found to be adults, they can be transferred to jails or the court can decide on their fate,” she said.

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