Pioneer Talk: Have written to MHA on crimes against children : Usha Negi
SCPCR will not let schools flout norms, will continue focusing on rights & welfare of children
Children have faced crimes during the lockdown which cannot even be described right now. Further, there is uncertainty regarding what happened to many children during the 2013 disaster. Stating this in an online interaction with The Pioneer, the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) chairperson Usha Negi said that the commission has written to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and other agencies concerned regarding this and will soon be taking action in this regard. She also stressed that some private schools have exploited their official status while not following their own bylaws and governmental regulations but such schools will not be spared either.
Regarding the issues faced by children during the lockdown imposed to check the spread of Covid-19 Negi said that parents had approached the commission stating that their children were either depressed or spending too much time on video games like the now banned PUBG and not studying. “We told the concerned parents that counseling is vital for such children. We hire the services of counsellers but in many cases, the parents are the best counsellers. We advised them to provide their children with interesting options to enhance their creativity and steer them away from activities like violent video games.”
Regarding serious crimes like child trafficking and abuse, she questioned why the departments concerned had not acted effectively to address these before. “We have asked what has been done to address these issues so far. Soon we will hold meetings and probably this week we will hold a meeting for Dehradun district with the district magistrate and departmental officials concerned.”
Regarding the issue of substance abuse among children she said that in addition to that children are also being exploited for dealing narcotics. “I have raided slums and caught children being used to sell narcotics many times in the past. In the last incident, when I found a girl selling cannabis, I made sure that she was sent to the Balika Niketan so she could get counseling and to ensure that her welfare is taken care of. Surprisingly, about seven lawyers came to get her out of there. This happened because the big fish are scared of being exposed but we cannot allow adults to play with the lives and future of children.Those pretending to be clean and saviours of society are the ones behind such illegal activities,” she said.
Replying to a query on alleged irregularities in orphanages run by voluntary organisations and missionaries especially in rural mountainous regions, Negi said that she had witnessed firsthand how children are treated in such places. “We will not forget what’s happening in childrens’ homes nor let the issue be a bygone. There are some who try to hinder our efforts. I have seen how they treat the children of SC community whom they target for religious conversions like in the orphanage where the death of a child had taken place. They exploit the poor kids, the children of leprosy patients. Apart from this, we have also sent a letter to MHA and talked to lawyers in Delhi about what happened to kids after the 2013 disaster. There are prominent organisations who talk a lot about child trafficking but do little. We are asking where the children are.
Apart from this, some incidents have taken place with children during the lockdown which we can’t disclose right now. We are inquiring and trying to get information from MHA and other sources. We are very much concerned and will do the needful.”
On the issue of complaints received about some private schools, the SCPCR chief criticised some schools exploiting their official status. She said, “It is my responsibility to address any complaint brought to me. If some people think the commission is overstepping its brief, I challenge them to approach the high court or the Supreme Court against us. These people talk big, register their schools as charitable trusts, under the societies act, enjoy all government benefits and rebates and charge exorbitant fees but even after that the children of government schools are better than the students of such schools. Such schools aim at simply making money without providing all facilities and even violate their own bylaws. Why will we not question them if they don’t even have a psychiatrist or special educator which they should have? They try to use their influence, but we are prepared and will look into the grievances of the children. We will not question such schools only if they meet the governmental norms but until then we will fulfill our duty. And it is important to understand that we are apolitical, our task is to look after the interests and rights of the children.”
Negi further said that SCPCR was doing the job which other departments and enforcing agencies should be doing. “The other departments have funding but express helplessness when it comes to doing the needful. We need more budget and manpower. We are currently making do with about half a dozen staff members and will do much better with more staff and resources. I have written to the government and have been assured that the needful will be done,” she added.
Tuesday, 15 September 2020 | PNS | Dehradun
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