By Gajanan Khergamker

It has been a while since Mumbai’s Panvel orphanage horror tales made headlines. The 19 physically and mentally challenged girls, who reportedly suffered abuse at the hands of the caretakers and other employees of KalyaniMahila and BalSevaSanstha, a shelter home in Panvel, deposed in front of the court one by one.

It may have been a shock to see people who are supposed to take care of these children indulging into such a heinous act but this is not the first time such a crime has happened in a shelter home in India.


Around the time, the Panvel shelter home incident came to light, an almost similar incident was reported in the Home for Mentally Deficient Children in Mankhurd. Here, unlike in the Panvel shelter home, the children were reportedly abused by older inmates of the home.

Though the Mankhurd shelter home was meant for children only, there were only 22 boys under 18 years of age at the time these incidents was reported. The rest of the inmates were adult which included some as old as 60, who stayed back at the shelter as they didn’t have anywhere else to go after they came of age.


And, if these stories are not enough, there is evidence of thedeplorable conditions in which children live in various shelter homes all over India.

An RTI query filed by BachpanBachaoAndolan revealed over 1,800 children fled various shelter homes in Delhi over the past few years. The data related to the period from 2006 to 2010.

The information provided by the Women and Child Development Department of the Delhi government related to 26 shelter homes, both statutory and non-statutory.

Reportedly, the query revealed that 10,600 children residing in the 26 shelter homes over four years of which as many as 1,807 children escaped because the condition of the shelter homes was ‘uninhabitable.’

During the four years, 29 children had died out which 28 were from the same shelter home. It was reported that 807 children had escaped from a single non-government organisation - Prayas.

According to the Andolan which filed the RTI, Delhi has 37 state-run and 17 non-government shelters as well as observation homes for homeless children with a total capacity of 3,000. Reportedly, there are more than 10,000 children who live on Delhi’s streets. These children who are mostly picked up from the streets or rescued from employees are brought to these shelter homes so that they get a normal childhood. Instead, they are put up in these shelter homes where their condition is such that they run away from there not out of choice but for lack of it.

Back in Mumbai, the conditions aren’t any better when it comes to shelter homes. When a couple of cases of child abuse in shelter homes surfaced around a year back, the High Court appointed an apex committee as amicus curiae to look into the functioning of various shelter homes for mentally-challenged children in Maharashtra and the conditions of their inmates. The committee, led by DrAshaBajpayee, TISS faculty, submitted its report in July 2011 and the revelations were shocking to say the least.

Only 20 of the 35 districts in Maharashtra have homes for mentally-ill children. And, the report indicated the basis on which these shelter homes were opened were ‘suspicious’.


The report said that “When a home is sanctioned in any district, a cut has to be paid to the Directorate of Women andChild Development (DWCD) officer and also to Child Welfare Committee members in the district.” It also questioned “the mushrooming of homes” over the past two year. “This is done for political considerations and it is not in the interest of children,” the report suggested.

According to the study, three homes had been shut down following revelations of sexual abuse, malnutrition and death of children owing to carelessness of the officials. Allegations of financial irregularities too had surfaced.

It also mentioned that none of the staff at any of the homes was even aware of signs of child sexual abuse. The report also alleged that children are transferred from one home to another ‘like cattle’ without the knowledge of CWC members which is a contravention of the rules.

And, if any child is seriously ill or there is a probability of his/ her death, s/he is transferred as no one wants to deal with death, the report said.


Sometime back, two British nationals, Alan Waters and Duncan Grant, were arrested and convicted for sexually abusing boys at Anchorage Shelter Home for street children they ran in Colaba.  Although the first case of children abuse by these Britons surfaced in 2001, it took years for them to be convicted for their crime. The duo were first found guilty in 2006 but were later acquitted by the High Court in 2008.

However, their acquittal was revoked by Supreme Court in 2011 after which they were sent to jail where they completed their sentence and deported to UK the same year.


The latest case of child abuse in a shelter home came up in Rohtak, Haryana.

It was reported that around 100 inmates of the government-aided shelter home, ApnaGhar, which is in the Chief Minister’s constituency, alleged gang rape and abuse by government official and police officers. It was alleged that women were forced into prostitution and pregnant women were being tortured to induce abortion.

Jaswanti Devi, who runs the shelter, was arrested along with three relatives. There are allegations of her being given ‘special treatment’ so that she doesn’t reveal the names of officials involved in the barbarous act.

This horrid tale came out when two women inmates escaped from the shelter home in May last and narrated the stories to the National Commission for Child Rights after which a PIL was filed.

Most of these incidences surface after years of abuse the shelter home inmates go through and there is no guaranteeing how many such “shelter homes” actually serve the purpose and are not just an ‘official’ cover for abusing helpless children and women.

By Gajanan Khergamker

“We have all read the fable of a shepherd and tiger, the way media is cooking up rape stories, it would be difficult to believe even a genuine rape case,” is what Mamata Banerjee had said with regard to the spurt in rape cases in West Bengal. She claimed the media was to be blamed for the ‘rise’ in number of rape cases in her state. While it was, on the face of things, a political attempt to save face by placing the blame squarely on the media for its coverage, the slack in enforcement and failure on its part to protect women in the state is evident from official figures.

The National Crime Records Bureau figures indicate West Bengal, along with Andhra Pradesh, had registered record high rates of crime against women in 2011. According to the report, West Bengal accounted for nearly 12.7 per cent of total crime against women by reporting 29,133 cases. Also, of the 24,206 rape cases reported all over India, West Bengal registered a total of 2,363 rape cases in 2011, coming second to Madhya Pradesh which recorded a total of 3,406 rape cases.

So, when the CM charged the media with fabricating rape cases to such an extent the state is having a hard time sifting out ‘genuine’ rape cases from the lot of fake, she really needs to look at the  state’s ‘official’ dismal performance in the regard before making such comments.

When a state head, and a woman herself, talks loosely about a crime as heinous as rape by saying that representatives of the media with vested interest were paying women to file fake rape cases, it only dissuades the affected from coming forward and filing complaints for fear of it not being taken seriously.

After all, not every woman is as strong as P. Vasanthi who reportedly refused to buckle under pressure and ensured that her complaint mets its logical end. Tamil Nadu’s Theni District-based victim P. Vasanthi claims she was picked up along with her three-year-old son, from a bus stop by a policeman in the night and taken to a police station only to be assaulted and raped in front of her child.

That her complaints to the authorities went unheeded didn’t dissuade Vasanthi who dashed off a letter to DGP, National Human Rights Commission and the Women’s Right Commission.

Incidentally, she approached an NGO which helped her petition her case before Madras High Court. The NGO also helped her retrieve evidence of police brutality from the records of the prison medical officer and the Trichy government hospital through RTI applications.

It was revealed the doctors had attended to Vasanthi and recorded she bore multiple injuries, especially from her waist down to the legs. Also, the doctors, reportedly, found her face was swollen and left ear hurt on arrival.

Theni’s SP Praveen Kumar reportedly said he didn’t know about the RTI application but said they didn’t register her FIR because her complaint was baseless. The matter is still in court and is awaiting justice.

It isn’t for the first time that police officials in authority have been charged with misusing power to molest, assault or rape women. There have been convictions on the count, across states, as well.

So, when a politician like Mamata Banerjee makes public statements about women filing fake rape cases, it only lends an air of incredulity to the charge of rape itself and almost exonerates sexually-deviant officials who would continue to misuse authority.

A little earlier, Anna Hazare’s team member KiranBedi found herself in the news for a similar faux pas. She had, allegedly, said the media was not giving enough importance to serious issues of corruption but were giving coverage to “small rape” cases.

The retired lady IPS officer was flayed widely in the media for making light of an issue as grave as rape speaking volumes about much safety of women is given importance.

Apart from India, politicians across the world are known to make disparaging comments about women. Just a few days back, an US Republican was reported to have said ‘derogatory’ comment against rape which caused uproar in the US.

US Republican Todd Akin said “From what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy resulting from rape is) really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something, you know, I think there should be some punishment but the punishment ought to be on the rapist.”

Mamata Banerjee who seemed to have made a habit of claiming all rape cases in her city are fake had reportedly asked the media to see the ‘positive’ side of rape stories. She made this remark while speaking to the media following the rape of a Mumbai-based woman in a park. She claims that the “rape and murder” stories have been cooked up to “malign the government.”

So, from blaming women for enticing men into rape them, trying to figure if the rape was ‘legitimate’ or not, dismissing rape as a petty offence to stating women had made a ‘habit’ of filing fake rape cases and taking money for the same, sadly, seems to have become a favourite line for politicians and officials alike. A few years back, in Mumbai, when an inebriated More raped a teenager at a crowded Marine Drive police booth, it vindicated popular fears of a sexually-depraved lot on the loose and in the police force.

When a two-year-old girl is raped by her neighbour, would you blame her for ‘enticing’ him? Or absolve a father for raping his daughter to ‘satisfy’ his demands who says it’s the daughter’s duty to fulfil his needs?

(Readers keen on seeking help on draftingRTI applications may write in to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Gajanan Khergamker on 022-22841593 for any assistance on RTI or to have their findings / issue featured here)


“I don’t have a degree but I have experience,” is what quack Zulekha Sheikh reportedly said after she was arrested in February, last year.

Zulekha Sheikh, who claimed to be a doctor, had been running a 13-bed Warsi Hospital in Mumbra for years before it was shut down this June. The hospital was once shut down five years back for illegal abortions but it was reopened recently when Sheikh said she hired a new qualified doctor to run it.

Warsi was reportedly run as a family business. Initial reports indicated, Zulekha portrayed the resident doctor, her matriculate passed daughter played nurse and 11th standard student son playing the ward boy apparently without fear of the law.

It was only a couple of month ago, when a healthy 22-year-old Hina Sayed who delivered a healthy baby in Warsi hospital died of profuse bleeding allegedly owing to medical negligence, that the issue came to light. Hina took her last breath while being shifted to another hospital and declared dead on arrival. Zulekha was arrested after the police were called in.

Despite reports of uneducated ‘doctors,’ under-qualified ‘nurses’ and junior college student ‘ward-boys’ running a medical show undeterred for years, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC’s) Executive Health Officer rather oddly suggests there are only 43 fake doctors in Mumbai.

It was following an RTI activist’squery to the BMC asking for the number of quacks in the city identified by the civic health department that the corporation provided the reply that seemed preposterous on the face of it. Although there are more than a dozen ‘qualified’ doctors in a single slum, the civic body’s assertion of there being 43 such doctors in the entire city comes as a shocker.

Although the RTI query was filed in April 2011, the reply came only in January 2012 i.e. a good eight months for the BMC to collate the figure. According to the statistics with the BMC, the total number of doctors in the city range from 35,000 and 40,000 and of these, barely 43 are quacks.

Delhi with a population of around 1.38 crore has an estimated number of 40,000 quacks and in comparison, Mumbai with a population of 1.24 crore, has barely 43 quacks. There evidently seems to be something amiss here, doesn’t it?

Zulekha Sheikh went on with her practice for years after being arrested. The so-called-doctor who claimed she learned to be a doctor by observing other doctors’ work went on with her work and risking other people’s life for years on end.

A string of allegations emerged following Hina’s death. In one, an old man who came to Warsi hospital complaining of a stomach ache, reportedly due to appendicitis, allegedly died because the ward boy pressed his appendix by mistake which went on to burst thereby killing him.

In another case, a new-born baby was allegedly dropped on the floor by the hospital staff causing permanent brain damage while a pregnant woman’s abortion reportedly remained incomplete despite a Medical Termination of Pregnancy procedure undertaken at the Hospital.

Incidentally, barely five months after BMC released its report stating there were only 43 quacks in the city, the District Health Officer was ‘alarmed’ by the number of fake doctors in the district and started conducted raids at many places.

In May last, eight bogus doctors were arrested in Nalasopara in a drive conducted by Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation (VVMC). It has been reported that there are around 300 bogus doctors in Vasai Virar region – which has a population far lesser than Mumbai.

Three years back, a ‘fake’ doctor was arrested from Bombay Hospital after, equipped with fake certificates, he ‘treated’ patient for seven years. It may be recalled that scientist Munir Khan too was in the news for practicing and selling his ‘wonder drug’ for years in Mumbai before being arrested in 2010.

His wonder drug, he claimed cured every disease including cancer, turned out to be nothing but a few herbs mixed in honey.  What is ironical is, before starting his own ‘ayurvedic research’ Khan used to work as a compounder for an ayurvedic doctor, who years later went on to claim the ‘wonder drug’ was his creation and Munir stole it from him.

In 2009, four fake doctors were arrested from Andheri for selling ‘a white powder’ which, they claimed, cured skin diseases.

While there had been reports across the nation of an Ayurvedic doctor killing patients by performing surgeries or another treating a patient for ‘acidity’ when the patient was having chest pain owing to heart blockage, Maharashtra even planned a move that would allow ayurvedic, unani and homeopathic doctors to prescribe allopathic medicines legally.Thankfully, the move was opposed by the Indian Medical Association that moved court against this decision.

On this decision, IMA State secretary Dr Jayesh Lele reportedly said, “This step of the state government shows it is bypassing not only the Medical Council of India, but also the decision of the court (In 1996, the HC had said that doctors registered with the Maharashtra Council of Homoeopathy will practise only homoeopathy and not any other stream of medicine). If the government is serious about providing better healthcare, it would have focused on improving amenities in rural areas and giving better working conditions to doctors. This ‘crosspathy’ will only serve to provide a platform for quacks.”

Already there are ayurvedic, homeopathic and unani doctors who practice and prescribe allopathic medication illegally due to various reasons varying from corruption among officials, ignorance among people and failure to adhere by norms. The state’s plan to allow them practice allopathy legally is perceived as the perfect recipe for disaster.

“This lenient attitude of the state towards quacks or doctors of one stream prescribing medicine from other streams has what led Munir Khan to loot people of lakhs of rupees openly and to top it advertise about it on media channel. This so-called doctor who used to sell a 100 ml bottle of his wonder potion for Rs 15,000 duped hundreds of unsuspecting patients of lakhs of rupees before the law caught up with him,” feels a medical practitioner on grounds of anonymity.

The state and the city’s civic body needs to urgently relook at rectifying the anomalies that risk thwarting public health instead of sweeping it below the carpet by arbitrary regularisation.

(Readers keen on seeking help on drafting RTI applications may write in to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Gajanan Khergamker on 022-22841593 for any assistance on RTI or to have their findings / issue featured here)