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Police decide on a friendly turn

- School kids quiz inspector-general on their rights, child marriages & special thanas

What is the need for child-friendly police stations? What are the rights of children? How should we stop child marriage?

These and many more such posers were directed by young reporters at IG, crime (investigation department), Sampat Meena on Thursday to launch efforts to convert police stations across the state into child-friendly thanas.

When Meena arrived at Jagannathpur police station around 12.30pm, five child reporters from Rajkiya Madhya Vidyalaya, Harmu, were already waiting for her.

Soon Soni Kumari, Ravindra Hembrome, Nandani Kumari, Naseera Eram and Indresh Tirkery, Class VII students, began firing their questions.

“Child-friendly police stations are required to give children the opportunity to share their problems without fear to the police,” Meena began patiently.

“Child marriage and the practice of bonded labour can be stopped if someone informs police before solemnisation of such a marriage or any responsible person like, say, a block development officer,” she added.

But the children pressed further. What are the rights of children? Why do children commit crime?

Children, the IG added, had every right to be educated and without any form of corporal punishment either from teachers or parents.

“But, children commit crimes when some adult criminals take advantage of their innocence and children do not share their problems with their parents,” Meena replied.

Job Zachariah, chief of Unicef (Jharkhand), who played a key role in organising the children for the interaction, was pleased with their level of understanding.

“The children asked intelligent questions which reflected the level of their inquisitiveness and curiosity about the need for child-friendly police stations in the state,” he said after the half-hour discussion.

Meena enjoyed the experience, too, saying that this exercise was only the beginning to spread awareness about the need for the police to be child-friendly. “As many as 21 criteria have been fixed. Once a police station fulfils all the criteria the director-general would declare it child friendly,” she explained.

Among the criteria that are needed to be observed in thanas were the presence of a child welfare officer, trained personnel, a separate room for questioning or talking to children, a proper washroom, drinking water facilities and a poster on laws to protect child rights.

All five children of Rajkiya Vidyalaya seemed to have had a field day, too.

“Earlier, I used to be afraid of talking to a police constable. But, today at the police station I could interview the inspector-general,” said wide-eyed Soni Kumari. “I enjoyed the snacks we were offered too.”