By Anushri Saxena:
In a country like India with more than half of its population consisting of youth, child laws become imperative on their own. For the first time, in the year of 1986, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act was configured which aimed at fending for the rights of children aged 0 to 18. It also led to two categories — the self-explanatory Child Welfare Committee and The Juvenile Justice Board, which is exclusively concerned with young offenders.
Child Welfare Committee intends to provide relief to children who are entangled in various exploitative situations like enforced labour, abusive families, victimized of trafficking, sexual and emotional assault, homelessness, suffering from sexually-transmitted diseases and what not.
Directionless and unschooled street children end up wandering about on their own accord and naively give in to self-destructive practices like cheap high-generating substances (specifically the white fluid!), tobacco and drugs. One thing leads to another and these little Mr. Sunshines end up as thugs, small-time pickpockets and later the same lot turns out to be rogues and rapists!
This was about the Child Welfare Committee in a nutshell, to rehabilitate and give shelter to all such underprivileged kids. There is also a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) that was set up in 2007 and monitors the rights of children.
Most of the detained children hail from poor and marginalized families, they can either be runaways or the abandoned ones. I reckon that these kids resort to malpractices maybe as a counter-action to the neglecting by their folks or due to just bad company.
There are social workers and a judicial magistrate in The Juvenile Justice Board, who look into the process of inquiry. Once a child is convicted for a crime as petty as being disobedient to as big as an assault, he is eventually sent to an observation home while his trial may simultaneously proceed. As per the Act, these come under the state government and every district is supposed to have one of such homes.
Ideally, these centres should facilitate education, skill-building workshops, re-orientation along with psychological guidance for the children so that when their time comes to step out they are at least able to earn bread and butter for themselves. It is another thing that these goals are often not achieved.
In the name of shelter and welfare, a large number of these ‘inmates’ are shut up in a big hall. Sometimes, they are not even allowed to move out. They are asked to do chores like dish washing, sweeping the floor etc. As a result there had been many cases of children escaping these centres by tricking or injuring the superintendent.
You may ask why it is so, and again the expected explanation would rest in the prevailing shortcomings of the mighty administration. I also came across a viewpoint that possibly, children are far from the main concern of the government merely because they are not counted as voters. Hence, their needs are hugely ignored.
However, there are some authentic web portals which cannot be neglected as they take up the child welfare cases and have brought about applaud-able developments too. One of them is The Juvenile Justice Unit, initiated by the Delhi Police which reportedly rescued more than a thousand children in the past one year.