Sunday, March 17, 2013

Still no country for innocent children?

Still no country for innocent children?

Instances of corporal punishment and sexual abuse of children reported from across the country has triggered the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to seek judicial intervention to push for child protection commissions in all States and Union Territories.
It is a sad commentary on the Central and State Governments that despite putting in place The Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act in 2005, under which the NCPCR was created, till date, less than 14 States and Union Territories have a State commission of their own.
The likes of Delhi, Goa, Maharashtra, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Assam have a fully functional State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR).
With the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the need for SCPCRs was felt acutely as the Union Human Resources & Development Ministry had assigned these bodies to be the nodal agencies at State level to resolve grievances under RTE. Several instances of corporal punishment came to light in States having child protection commission. The Ministry identified 15 States where such commissions were to come up.
In this backdrop, the NCPCR took the lead to approach the Punjab & Haryana High Court for a direction to set up SCPCRs in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh after the two States reported a disturbing trend of children being abused and exploited by owners of child care and shelter homes.
Recently, two instances of corporal punishment from Tamil Nadu and West Bengal had generated a debate on the need for protecting children from abuse but what was bothering for the NCPCR was the shocking State of affairs in three shelter homes run by NGOs - Gurgaon-based Suparna ka Aangan and Drone Foundation and the Rohtak-based Apna Ghar run by NGO Bharat Vikas Sangh.
At Apna Ghar, young girls were disrobed, tied to iron grills and beaten with rods and sticks. The shelter home owner’s relatives themselves were involved in sexually molesting the girl inmates, starving children for acts of indiscipline and hitting young boys and girls on their private parts. In the other two homes as well, NCPCR brought out instances of rape and sexual abuse of minor girls to the attention of State authorities pressing for SCPCR to be urgently constituted.
A survey conducted by NCPCR’s counsel advocate Anil Malhotra revealed over 100 unregistered shelter homes that existed in Haryana alone, although the State claimed on paper that it had on its official rolls a list of 14 children homes with 18 others waiting to get registered. The petition filed by NCPCR has asked the HC to implement compulsory registration of all shelter homes as provided under Section 34(3) of Juvenile Justice Act.
With the high court asking Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh Governments to respond to the petition by September 18, there is a glimmer of hope.
In Punjab, the SCPCR exists on paper alone. The NCPCR petition further demanded a selection committee to be constituted to appoint a chairman and members not only for the SCPCR but for the equally crucial child welfare committees under Juvenile Justice Act as well.

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