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A government investigation has found that most of the 28 senior inmates at the National Juvenile Development Centre at Tongi are addicted to drug substances and they ‘try to collect drugs from employees and their relatives on their way to and from courts.’
‘On the consideration of statements from witnesses and circumstantial evidence, it is primarily evident to the probe committee that an inmate has collected two bottles of cough syrup in the presence of three on-duty policemen while he was produced in court,’ said a committee investigating the incident in its report submitted to the High Court in the past week.
After newspapers published reports, the court in a rule issued suo moto on February 13 asked the social welfare secretary to find out why 20 inmates of the centre, which has 150 inmates, had severely injured themselves at night on February 11.
The committee was set up with acting the social welfare department director general M Ayyub Hossain as head. Two others on the committee are the superintendent of police in Gazipur M Abdul Baten and the Gazipur deputy commissioner M Nurul Islam.
The 20 inmates injured themselves by cutting their hand, forehead, legs and other parts of the body with broken glasses and blades after being enraged at the Juvenile Development Centre’s acting superintendent
SM Anwarul Karim who had transferred Ansar members and the centre’s employees suspected to have been involved in supply drugs, according to the findings.
The report was submitted to the High Court bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice ABM Altaf Hossain which is set to pass further order on the issue on April 3.
The report said that some inmates had in a planned way injured themselves so that higher authorities removed the superintendent.
The committee recommended the dismantling of shops beside the boundary wall of the five-storey centre and relocation of an election office and a police barrack from the juvenile court inside centre immediately to check against the supply of drugs and entry of outsiders.
It, however, said that the allegations media published that the inmates injured themselves in protest at not getting food regularly could not be proved.
The report said that general inmates were being tortured inhumanely by senior inmates, aged above 18 years, and were called the ‘house’s big brothers’ on each floor and ‘room’s big brothers’ in each room but the victims could not talk about the torture in fear of further torture.
‘Big brothers’ tried to establish their supremacy by torturing general inmates without any reason, the report said quoting some inmates.
Inmates in question, however, said that the superintendent used to torture inmates at different period, including during assembly.
The report recommended the abolition of the custom of big brothers.
The position of inmates inside the dormitory could not be easily observed as the rooms have no windows in the front side of the building and this allows inmates to get engaged in fight and other criminal activities without being noticed, the report said.
The report said that Shahadat Hossain, a physically challenged inmate, was sexually harassed and was killed by others in the centre in 2012 and the case in this regard was still under investigation.
The committee recommended an immediate relocation of inmates aged above 18 years to jails.
It recommended holding seminars and symposiums through house parents and centre’s officials to make inmates aware of the effect of drug substances.
The committee recommended the installation of closed-circuit television cameras in each room to ensure full-time surveillance on inmates.
It recommended the signing of memorandums of understanding to ensure access of more registered volunteer organisations as development partners to the centre.
Rights activist and Supreme Court lawyer Fahima Nasrin told New Age that the children could not get involved in such ‘horrific incidents’ if they got all facilities as entitled under the law.
Fahima refuted the committee’s findings that most of the children were ‘addicts to drug substances.’
‘It is merely a statement to avoid the responsibility. Employees working there should be more caring towards the children,’ she said.
Salma Parvin, a teacher of clinical psychology in Dhaka University, said that the authorities should show positive attitude towards the inmates for their development instead of picking their negative sides.
The development centre must have arrangement for recreation for inmates and proper counselling to check such incidents, she added.

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