School warden accused of forcing child to drink her own urine
THE FEMALE warden of a hostel of a girls school in India’s eastern Bengal state, who allegedly forced a 10-year old girl to drink her own urine as punishment for bed-wetting, was granted bail yesterday by a district judge.
In a case that has outraged the country, Punita Mistri’s parents claimed that Uma Poddar, warden of Patha Bhavan school in Shantiniketan, 212km from the state capital Kolkata, had “squeezed” urine into their daughter’s mouth from the sheet she had wet while sleeping.
In their complaint to the local police at the weekend, Punita’s parents said Ms Poddar had admitted to making their daughter drink her own urine “as treatment to stop the bad habit of bed-wetting”.
Ms Poddar has declined to make any public comment while the girl is undergoing medical and psychiatric treatment as she was taken ill after ingesting the urine.
The incident took place on Saturday night when Punita wet her bed because she was unwell. Her parents only found out about it when the mother called the warden to inquire after their daughter’s health and thereafter rushed to the school.
However, in a bizarre twist, the girl’s parents were arrested by the police on a complaint filed by Ms Poddar for entering the hostel without permission and taking their daughter away.
However they have been granted unconditional bail by a local court which severely reprimanded the police for arresting them.
The Patha Bhavan school attended by middle-class children from surrounding towns in Bengal is run by Viswa Bharati University which was established by Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913.
The Bharti university has produced alumni like Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and former prime minister Indira Gandhi.
Meanwhile, prime minister Manmohan Singh, who is chancellor of the university, has sought a report on the incident while the National Commission for Protection of Children’s Rights has asked the state government to investigate the incident and punish the offenders.
“People who are given responsibility over children should know how to look after them,” commission head Shanta Sinha said.
Corporal punishment is banned in India but cases of physical abuse are reported regularly in schools.
According to Plan International, a development charity working with communities in 45 countries to alleviate child poverty, corporal punishment is widespread across India with over 65 per cent of children claiming to be victims.
According to Prevention Pays, a recent study by Plan International on corporal punishment, discrimination by caste and gender is the major reason behind violence against children in Indian schools.
Plan International said physical punishment, that included slapping students, caning or beating them with sticks or forcing them to stand for hours on end, was largely responsible for the high dropout rate in state-run schools.
So frequent were the beatings that many students even believed that corporal punishment was a part of their school curriculum.
Teachers, for their part, justified the violence, claiming they were overburdened with pupils.