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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Sexual abuse in orphange funded by Harsh Mander’s CES

An orphanage in Chennai has been sealed based on the inmates’ complaint that they faced sexual abuse from its director and his relatives. SEERS (Socio-Economic Education Rehabilitation Society), a well known orphanage that seems to have been frequented by celebrities, was sealed by the Juvenile Police Unit and the Child Welfare Committee(CWC) officials upon coming to know that the orphanage operated without a license. According to news reports Kalyana Sundaram, the director of SEERS, was running the orphanage.

23 girls ranging from 9-17 years were residing in the orphanage. Five of them left the place to be with their parents when Covid-19 induced lock down was imposed. Among the 18 girls who still stayed there, one called up the Childline number 1098 and informed the activists that they were being sexually abused by the director, his son and brother and a few more of his family members regularly, more so during the lockdown.

TN minister Mafoi.Pandiarajan fecilitated the NGOs including SEERS for their cooperation in containing the spread of Covid-19

Brother of Kalyana Sundaram used to drive an auto rickshaw to take the children from the home to school and abused them on the way. While Kalyana Sundaram is absconding his brother and son are being investigated. Francis Adaikkalam, a CWC member told the media that some of the rescued children had been living in the home despite having parents as they were from economically backward families. He further said that CWC members are in contact with the parents and the future course of action will be decided based on the investigation while the children have been placed in another home for the time being.

The orphanage SEERS had received funds from some well-known NGOs like Association for the Rural and Urban Needy(ARUN) and Centre for Equity Studies (CES). Recently it received funds from an US entity called Rice Bowls that sends funds to 30 such orphanages in India. In their website they declare that their god has called them to care for ‘orphaned and unprotected children’ and that faith-based children’s homes can be a great place to receive the basic necessities’.

They also reveal the reason behind their name Rice Bowls as they believe ‘covering an orphan’s food costs allows orphanage directors to teach biblical truths, moral virtues and leadership skills‘. However this organisation has contributed to SEERS directly only once. Other times it routed the funds through one Jane India Mission Trust. Rice Bowls in total has sent ₹4.5 lakhs to the orphanage.

The other organisations CES and ARUN donated ₹10 lakhs and ₹17.5 lakhs in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Apart from this, notorious child rights NGO Save the Children also donated ₹9.93 lakhs in 2014. There seems to be a curious link between ARUN and CES. ARUN, registered as an FCRA organisation in Telangana is run by one Anuradha Konkepudi and in between the period of 2010-2018 received nearly ₹86 crores. It is also associated with Bezwada Wilson, a well known ‘activist’ leading Safai Karamchari Andolan.

ARUN lists in its website that to ‘organize, encourage and build the capacities of Dalits, minorities, women, and children to be involved in social change processes’ and to ‘create awareness against social evils like child marriage, untouchability, female foeticide, dowry deaths, domestic violence, traditional devadasis / jogini systems, child and bonded labour, witch hunting, eve teasing, and attacks on women’. Curiously it hasn’t listed sexual harassment among the issues it takes up. Perhaps it conveniently left it as orphanages being run in the name of Rainbow Homes, directly funded by ARUN are under the scanner of National Committee for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) for alleged sexual abuse in them.

ARUN received funds from Christian organisations like Bread for the World, Action Aid, Christian Aid, Oxfam and the embassy of Netherlands. CES’s director is Harsh Mander, the well known ‘social activist’ who was also pulled up by NCPCR for using children residing at Kushi Rainbow home in anti-CAA protests. CES works on everything under the sun from gender rights, right to food, tribal rights, communal violence, etc. Bezwada Wilson is also one of the members of the governing council of CES.

Legal Rights Observatory which had been flagging FCRA NGOs that use money for different purposes than mentioned in their returns, especially conversion requested the Home Ministry to cancel ARUN’s FCRA license citing that it received funds from organisations like Islamic Relief Worldwide(IRW) which is said to be funding islamic terrorism. It has also revealed the background of other organisations like Organisation Functioning For Eytham’s Respect, that is used by IRW to funnel funds to ARUN.

Rice Bowls which was funding the orphanage in 2016-18 uses the photos of Indian children to beg for funds on its website and takes their donors on trips to the orphanages and lets them interact with the children. With the history of foreigners sexually abusing children in orphanages during their visits it’s pertinent that the children are investigated in this point of view as well. However the FCRA tag has only helped both the Indian and the foreign perpetrators to escape.

But NCPCR has taken note of the presence of an astounding number of orphanages in the country, especially in South India, and found out in its audit that most of the orphanages house economically backward children who have parents. The audit revealed that FCRA NGOs are embezzling funds collected in the name of ‘orphans’ and that they collected more than necessary in some cases. NCPCR has directed the state units SCPCRs to take necessary measures to reunite the children with their parents. 

Even though this is facing resistance from the missionary quarters, NCPCR is standing firm on its belief that children with parents should stay with their family. Perhaps when it sends home all such children and shuts down fake, unregistered and unnecessary orphanages such incidents may come down.




(Featured Image Source: Twitter)

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