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Tarini Puri,TNN | Apr 12, 2014, 05.38 AM IST
PUNE: When a state commission to deal exclusively with children's issues was set up in 2007, there was much hope that it would lead to effective implementation and monitoring of policies and acts related to children. Seven years on, the commission is working with a skeletal staff and its activities vaguely known among child rights activists. Officials, however, say the commission's work is on track.
The Maharashtra Commission for Protection of Child Rights has been working with an acting chairman, who is an official of the state ministry of women and child development and a member secretary, since December 2011. No fresh appointments have been made to fill vacancies for members.
On paper, the commission is required to ensure compliance to important laws including Right to Education Act, 2005, and more recently, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. In the case of POCSO, the commission is meant to monitor its implementation and also ensure awareness about it in schools and other children's institutions, and also train police personnel and other state officials who have to deal with the act. The commission can also call for a report on any specific case of child sexual abuse that falls in the purview of the child welfare committee.
With the rising number of cases of violation of children's rights in the state, including Pune, such as the recent case of a four-year-old's alleged rape on the school bus, has former members of the commission questioning the government's laxity in appointing members.
"It's almost as if children are not a priority for the state government. Our term ended in December 2011 and no one has been appointed in our place. Multiple cases of child rights violation continue to be reported everyday, but no one is there to look into them," said a former member of the commission who did not wish to be named.
Another former member said, "Though our term ended long ago, because of our association with people at the grassroots level, we continue to get complaints. However, we can do nothing more than forward the same to the officials in Mumbai."
Alleging that there was an inexplicable delay in the appointment of new members by the government, former appointees said the process had been stalled multiple times in the past. "The file of prospective appointments was made, lost, destroyed in the fire at Mantralaya, subsequently remade, but nothing conclusive came out of it," a former member said.
Officials, however, said there is no impact on work. Ujjval Uke, principal secretary in the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the acting chairman of the commission said, "We are currently operating on the minimum stipulated strength of a two-member bench. Cases continue to be heard and taken cognizance of. We are also taking up other tasks this year, including engagement with schools, training and sensitization of police personnel regarding POCSO among others. We continue to receive complaints by email and even act on them. We also take up issues suo motu based on media reports. It's true that there are no members in the commission now, but no appointments are possible now because of the election code of conduct."
Child rights groups say if the commission is well-staffed it would lead to better redressal of issues. "If we approach the national body for any issue, they refer us back to the state organization. I hope they appoint the right kind of people fast. We need this organization to uphold the government's commitment to children's rights," said Ingrid Mendonca, member of Action for the Rights of the Child (ARC), Pune.
What is NCPCR
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was setup in March 2007, under a special Act of Parliament. The mandate of the commission is to monitor all laws, policies, programmes, and administrative mechanisms in the country to ensure that children's rights as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are protected. In April 2013, the Commission has set up a specialized POCSO Division to monitor the implementation of the 'Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act' 2012.
* A chairperson (a person of eminence who has worked for promoting the welfare of children)
* Six members (at least two women) with experience in Education
Child health, care, welfare or child development
– Juvenile justice or care of neglected or marginalized children or children with disabilities
– Elimination of child labour or children in distress
– Child psychology or sociology
– Laws relating to children
What is MCPCR
The Maharashtra Commission for Protection of Child Rights is the state-level statutory body which was constituted (on the exact lines of the NCPCR) on July 24, 2007. The term of the last 6-member commission ended on December 2, 2011. No new appointments have been made since then.
NCPCR and POCSO
According to NCPCR's report 'The First Six Years' (2007-2013), "There is a silence and lack of acknowledgement that children are being subject to sexual assault and violence in the country. More often the perpetrators are those known to the child, from within the family and the neighbourhood". According to the report, the commission responded to more than 300 cases (in police custody, juvenile homes, schools and institutional settings and families) of child sexual assault and abuse in six years.
Functions of the NCPCR/ MCPCR vis a vis POCSO
– Monitoring the implementation of the provisions of the POCSO Act, 2012
– Monitoring the formulation of the guidelines described in section 39 of the Act by the state governments regarding assisting the child pre-trial and during trial, and to monitor the application of these guidelines
– To train police personnel and other concerned state officials for the effective discharge of their functions under the Act
– To call for a report on any specific case of child sexual abuse falling within the jurisdiction of a CWC
– To collect information and data on its own or from the relevant agencies regarding reported cases of sexual abuse and their disposal under the processes established under the Act
I don't really understand the working style of the MCPCR. I don't think they are very active or result oriented. Technically, a district project officer is supposed to be deputed in Pune. Some lady was appointed by the commission some time ago, but I don't know what happened of her. I believe they are going through their own internal problems. In case we have some work with the commission, we have to directly approach the commission's office in Mumbai. – Anuradha Sahasrabuddhe, director, Childline
We have absolutely no interaction with anyone from the MCPCR. As far as we know, there is supposed to be a committee, but the members for it have not been appointed. Having such a state-level body would be very helpful as there are plenty of cases of child rights violation in which we look for some government intervention to put pressure on the parties involved. – Kranti Salve, convener, Action for the Rights of the Child (ARC), Pune