Over 600 empty liquor bottles, rotting vegetables in the store, one broken toilet and just one room. Such are the conditions that the police found 29 poor tribal girls living in when it rescued them in a raid at an illegal child home in Jaipur on Tuesday. Aged between five and 14, these girls were brought from the north east to Grace Home in the Rajasthan's capital with promises of education, food and care.
But in this institution, not only were the children never sent to school, no teacher ever visited them at the home. What's more shocking is that instead of a female warden, a 14-year-old boy was in charge here.
The children were not allowed to call their families; even their parents were also not allowed to call them. Belonging to poor Christian families, the parents had been promised food, education and lodging for their children at this Christian institution.
After one child died at this home, parents complained, and the Child Rights Commission, after surveying this home for a month, on Tuesday carried out a raid with the help of the police. 29 girls were rescued and the man who single-handedly ran this home, Jacob John, was taken into police custody. He is being questioned.
"They stay in the hall and study by themselves. The older children teach the younger ones... there is no female warden or domestic help to take care of them... no registration papers," said Deepak Kalra, Chairperson of Child Rights Commission, Rajasthan.
Grace Home was being run illegally and had no paperwork. All such institutions are meant to be registered with the government so that monitoring committees can oversee functions and check that children are being taken care of.
Neighbours say they never saw the children go out to play in the park in front of their home, which is a rented two-bedroom house in a colony in Jaipur.
Mr Jacob John, who ran the home, also runs a similar home for boys in another part of Jaipur. 15 young boys have been rescued from there.
The children have now been moved to different shelters in the city. They will undergo medical check-ups and counselling.
It is still not clear how Grace Home was funded, but pictures of smiling children with foreign volunteers on its notice board hint at foreign funding. The source of funding will also be investigated by the police.