Saturday, May 18, 2013

Serious charges against ex-child rights panel chief, two members

Serious charges against ex-child rights panel chief, two members

NEW DELHI: Tasked with protecting India's 440 million children, the national child rights commission is instead mired in controversy with allegations of professional impropriety and financial irregularities against three members including its chairperson.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Shanta Sinha, whose term ended on Thursday, is facing conflict of interest charges and has also been accused of keeping some members in the dark on financial decisions. Two other members are facing allegations of running private businesses and claiming travel and phone expenses from the commission.

NCPCR members Vinod Kumar Tikoo and Yogesh Dube had complained to National Advisory Council chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the women and child development ministry between November 2012 and March 2013 that Shanta Sinha was promoting certain NGOs and keeping the commission in the dark on decisions related to disbursement of funds and advising the Justice Verma panel on the anti-rape law.

Dube had recommended that the Bal Bandhu scheme, funded under the PM's relief fund, for Naxal affected areas, be wound up as it was a duplication of the government's Bharat Nirman Volunteer programme. So far, about Rs 4.5 crore have been given for the scheme. Similar objections were raised by members about a J&K project on child rights and assessment of Right To Education Act. When contacted, Sinha refused to comment on the allegations.

But the two members who have been on a letter-writing spree have also been at the receiving end. In a letter by four child rights NGOs -- Bal Adhikar Abhiyan, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, Association for Development, and Child Rights and You -- in April, it was alleged that Tikoo and Dube were running businesses and claiming reimbursements of travel and phone expenses from the commission.

The complaint to the PMO and the WCD ministry alleged that Tikoo was running a business of stoles, shawls and other garments. The letter also claimed that Tikoo's business address and phone number was the same for which he was claiming house rent and phone allowance from the commission. When contacted, Tikoo rubbished the allegations, claiming that the complaint could be "retaliation" for raising his voice against "wrongdoings".

Incidentally, a PIL is pending in Delhi High Court since 2011 challenging Tikoo and Dube's appointment on the ground that they had scarce training and experience in the field of child rights.

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