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Ambika Pandit, TNN | Jul 28, 2012, 03.46AM IST
NEW DELHI: It was meant to be a unique interaction between children and MLAs on child rights, but left the child participants dispirited. Just four MLAs – one from the ruling Congress and three from BJP – turned up at Constitution Club for the meeting titled "Children & Governance in Delhi: An interface with legislators".
The NGO HAQ: Centre for Child Rights had identified around 20 'children-friendly' MLAs based on their questions during the budget session, and tried to get them on board for the meet. But despite the invitations and follow-ups, only eight assured their involvement in the programme, six confirmed their participation and four made it, social workers said.
Congress MLA from Seemapuri, Veer Singh Dhingan, chose to leave after the first presentation by Child Rights & You (CRY), pleading an urgent meeting. He, however, found time to deliver a long speech about child labour in his constituency.
Four-time MLA and BJP's chief whip in the assembly, Sahib Singh Chauhan from Ghonda constituency, decided to follow in Dhingan's footsteps. He too rose to announce that he had an urgent meeting to attend and embarked upon a sermon on the need to secure child rights and plug the many loopholes in the Right to Education Act. He took political digs at the ruling party and concluded that change can be brought about only if people choose the right representatives.
Left alone on the platform, BJP's Sangam Vihar MLA, Dr SCL Gupta, struggled to make up for the awkwardness created by his colleagues and salvage the image of legislators. He assured everyone that he would sit through the entire programme and said that integrated development was the answer to all problems. Regarding missing children, he said there was a need for mandatory FIRs to reduce such cases. He assured that he would make a pitch for protecting the rights of children in the next session.
BJP MLA from Bijwasan, Sat Prakash Rana, stomped in after the meeting closed for high tea. The organizers, NGOs, grassroot activists and children politely reassembled to give Rana the stage to share his views.
Congress MLA Chaudhary Mateen Ahmad and Hari Shankar Gupta confirmed their attendance but decided to stay away citing meetings. MLAs Kulwant Rana (BJP), Mala Ram Gangwal (Congress), Naseeb Singh (Congress), Dharam Dev Solanki (BJP) were among those who showed keen interest in the interface but were either unavailable for a final confirmation or stepped back on some pretext or the other.
Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, co-director, HAQ said, "Even if children do not vote, members of the legislative assembly are their representatives. It is therefore critical that they must be made familiar with issues that concern children. Hence an interface was planned." Making as assessment of the 2012-13 Delhi budget, she said, "This year 17.96% of the budget has been allocated to children, which is down from last year's 19.03%. Moreover, in this year's allocation the amount for child protection remains low despite the rise in cases of missing children."