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In an attempt to prevent adolescents and youth from picking up guns, the Centre will soon announce a special initiative to protect children's rights and mobilise communities through local youth volunteers or child defenders in the areas affected by armed conflict, particularly the Naxal districts.
The “Bal Bandhu Scheme for Protection of Children's Rights in Areas of Civil Unrest” is aimed at bringing stability in the lives of children and, in the process, ensure their entitlements to protection, health, nutrition, sanitation, education and safety are fulfilled. This scheme is expected to enhance democracy through community participation and action, and renew hope in harmonising society and stabilising lives while a child's well-being becomes the focus of all action in the areas.
In the first phase, the scheme will be implemented in Kokrajhar, Chirang, North Cachar Hills (Assam), Khammam (Andhra Pradesh), Gadchiroli (Maharashtra), Jamui, Rohtas, East Champaran and Sheohar (Bihar) and Dantewada (Chhattisgarh). While the scheme has been drafted by the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, it will be implemented by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
The mandate of the child defenders will be to trace all adolescent boys and girls who are usually missing in these areas and creating an atmosphere to bring them back, community participation in repairing and reviving schools, enrolling children, and petitions to block and district for teachers and infrastructure. They will also monitor children's nutrition and health needs through anganwadi centres.
An advisory committee at the NCPCR will identify resource persons who would start interaction with local youths, official, community and gram panchayats and involve them in discussions and some do-able local actions.
In about a month, they will be expected to have inspired 20-30 local youths who would volunteer to take part in the programme. From these volunteers, youths with leadership qualities and community acceptance will be selected as ‘Bal Bandhus'. No formal academic qualification would be necessary for the purpose.
The Bal Bandhus will be given an honorarium that would be credited into their bank or post office account. Funds for the scheme will come from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund.