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Interview

“Government systems are not equipped,

A 19 year old orphaned mentally retarded girl is raped at a government run shelter home in Chandigarh and gets pregnant. Barely 2 months before the delivery and a month after the Supreme Court judgement putting the onus on the State, Chandigarh administration is asking the National Trust Whose baby is it?. Dorodi Sharma of D.N.I.S. went to Chandigarh with the National Trusts Sub Committee members. Here are excerpts from the discussion between the Sub Committee and Home Secretary of Chandigarh, Ram Niwas.

What was the major issue concerning the pregnancy?

Ram Niwas: We went to Court for termination of the pregnancy because we were concerned with the future of the child. The girl in question has an intellectual age of a 9 year old and cannot take care of the baby. It was only after the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities stepped in with an affidavit saying that they are willing to take care of the child that the Supreme Court upheld the girls right to motherhood. We have been taking good care of the girl till now and want the National Trust to take over the responsibility as they promised.

In the September 22 meeting convened in New Delhi by the National Trust, it was decided that the major concern for the girl at this point of time is nutrition, prenatal care and training for motherhood and to move her to Bangalore just for that makes no sense. Is the Chandigarh administration not equipped to provide these basic facilities?

Ram Niwas: Chandigarh has the best of infrastructure. We have been providing the best of care and nutrition to the girl. We are committed to providing her with all required medical and other facilities till childbirth. But what we have been maintaining since before is that we cannot be a surrogate mother.

But isnt it the responsibility of the government to take care of the mother as well as the child?

Ram Niwas: Government systems are not equipped to handle such situations. There is no security in our shelter homes. Had the government been doing what it should be doing, the girl wouldnt have been raped in the first place!

Ashreya (the shelter home where the girl is staying) has only 14 resident inmates and more than enough staff. Then why is not possible to keep her here?

Ram Niwas: The attrition rate in our shelter homes is very high. There is full attendance only when there is a scheduled visit. When I come for surprise visits, it is a totally different picture. This place does not even have a Warden.

So what will be the future course of action?

Ram Niwas: The ultimate authority rests with General (Retd.) S.F. Rodrigues, Governor of Punjab who is also the Administrator of Chandigarh. Whatever is his decision will be communicated to the National Trust. We will present our points to the Punjab and Haryana High Court on October 12.