Probe ordered into death of HIV orphan

Dikshita Barman

Guwahati, May 12 : The Assam Human Rights Commission today asked the state social welfare department to investigate the circumstances leading to the death of Dikshita Barman, a four-year-old HIV positive girl, last month and submit a report to it within 30 days.
The directive came after a city-based NGO, Consumer’s Legal Protection Forum, moved the commission, citing a report published in The Telegraph on April 23 highlighting how the girl from lower Assam’s Nalbari district died after she was shifted from one care centre to another.
The NGO had on May 5 complained to the commission that Dikshita had died because of absence of a special care centre for HIV positive children in the state. The commission accepted the complaint and registered a case (116/18/2011-12), before issuing the inquiry order.
Commission member Jyoti Prasad Chaliha today said, “We had gone through the news items and the complaint lodged by the NGO and asked the commissioner secretary of the social welfare department to conduct a thorough inquiry into the incident, and the circumstances leading to her death. We have asked them to discuss with those associated with the care and treatment of the child and submit a detailed report to us.”
The commission also asked the department to report the steps being taken by the government regarding creation of facilities to take care of HIV positive children. “The NGO complained that while there are around 70 HIV positive orphans in the state, there are no facilities to take care of them. So we have asked the department to let us know if the government has any policy or scheme for HIV positive orphans,” Chaliha said.
Dikshita, who had lost her parents to AIDS last year, was discovered in a goat shed at her uncle’s house in Nalbari last December. She was brou-ght to Guwahati by a local NGO on December 11 and was being taken care of in a community care centre run by Bhorukha Public Welfare Trust, another NGO. Her condition had also improved after anti-retroviral treatment.
The child welfare committee, under social welfare department, and Assam State AIDS Control Society decided to send her to a care centre run by Missionaries of Charity at Lankeswar. She was shifted to the new centre, Shantidaan, on April 2 and four days later, she died of a serious stomach ailment.
“Dikshita is no more, but there are several children like her who need special care. Ke-eping this in mind, we appealed to the commission to instruct the government and ensure that human rights of HIV positive children are protected,” the NGO’s chief coordinator and Gauhati High Co-urt lawyer Ajoy Hazarika said.