To Right Wrongs to kids, give Panels more Teeth

  • Country's protection laws are similar to the US, but we're not vocal about enforcement, writes a teenager on Children's Day
  • Carrying her books in a plastic bag, Geeta Baria, a class 9 girl in Sajanpura village, Gujarat, is at the banks of the Hiran river at 7 am sharp every morning.
  • She also clutches a large brass pot, which is crucial, because its buoyancy helps her swim through the raging waters to school.
  • Out of necessity , children in Sajanpura village have been making this dangerous journey every morning for seven years.
  • Their struggle has received publicity only recently .
  • In India, child rights have recently become a priority .
  • In 1990, the Indian government ratified the UN Charter of the Declaration on Survival, Protection and Development of Chil dren, acceded to the Convention of Child Rights and signed a document titled “ A World Fit for Children“.
  • Consequently , the Indian government is mandated to provide basic child rights, such as protection and education.
  • To administer these rights, the Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act was created in 2005.
  • By 2014, 29 out of 36 Indian states have commissions that are enforcing child protection policies.
  • State governments did not give priority to creating the commission because there was no public pressure to create the commission within the stipulated two year period.
  • The Act creating the National CPCR was passed in 2007, but only after a PIL was filed did the Punjab and Haryana high court order give directions to the Chandigarh administration in 2012.
  • After two more years, the Chandigarh CPCR was commissioned with the appointment of Professor Devi Sirohi as its only member.
  • During my internship with CPCR in Chandigarh this year, I heard stories of juveniles in jail, school principals forcing poor children to pay fees (violating the Right to Education Act) and children being discouraged from lodging complaints.
  • The local authorities appear insensitive to the cause of children and ignorant of laws protecting them.
  •  In a case where girls from Bal Niketan complained of abuse, police questioned children in full uniform, unaware of how it might intimidate them.
  • A young girl of 16, who faced domestic abuse at home, had been turned away by the police when she tried to lodge a FIR.
  • The police told her she had a “bad reputation“.
  • The Chandigarh commission may only have one member, but like other commissions has taken huge steps to protect children.
  •  While the laws may be similar in both the US and India, the cultures are very different.
  • It is perhaps the culture in the US that makes child rights easier to protect -the people around me are very vocal when it comes to protecting children.
  • For children to truly have rights in India, in addition to government enforcement, there has to be a cultural change whereby the people provide vocal, popular sup port to the commissions, and acknowledge the children whose rights are being violated daily .
  • As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a recent speech about his Swachh Bharat campaign:Do the citizens have no role in this? We have to change this mindset. India can do it, the people of India can do it.