Slapped left and right on child rights abuse

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  • Published 12.11.13

Ranchi, Nov. 11: Jharkhand cut a sorry figure at a public hearing held by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), its inability to reply cogently to citizen’s complaints forcing the watchdog body to criticise the state and issue a series of time-bound directives.

“In Jharkhand, there is a gross systemic failure. Irony is that children are being deprived of rights and the government is putting up blank faces before the commission,” said NCPCR chairperson Kushal Singh, who along with two other members, was holding the public hearing in Ranchi.

Today, which was the first day of the two-day exercise, saw as many as 18 cases being taken up. These included complaints of poor children admitted to private English-medium schools under Right to Education Act (RTE), corporal punishment and pending teachers’ appointments.

But the absence of key state government officials during the first half of the hearing angered the commission, represented by chairperson Singh and members Yogesh Dube (child labour) and Vinod Kumar Tikoo, (child psychology/sociology).

State government officials did make an appearance later in the post lunch session, although most of the cases taken up could not elicit a proper explanation from them.

This prompted the commission to issue a number of guidelines. Among them were:

Prepare guidelines for enrolment process of children under economically weaker section (EWS) within three weeks

Release a notice/order immediately, directing all schools (private/public) to put up a complaint box on their premises and check it regularly for children’s grievances including complaints of corporal punishment

Announce punishments for teachers found guilty of corporal punishment

Popularise midday meal toll free helpline number 1800 3456 542/544 and submit a report on calls received and action taken within a month

Earlier, inaugurating the hearing, Singh stressed on the importance of child rights, saying every child born in India was a “citizen of India” and not a “future citizen of India”. Hence, every child had similar rights as that of an adult.

“We often discriminate between rights of a child and of an adult, but we should not forget that ensuring their rights is our first responsibility,” she said.

State HRD secretary K. Vidyasagar, who joined the hearing during the second session, promised to fill all teacher vacancies by January 2014 and adopt mechanisms to address issues related to child rights.

Most of the cases taken up for hearing during the day revealed glaring administrative loopholes. HRD deputy director K. M. Mallick was clearly inept at answering most of the queries.

Case I: Umesh Kumar said several poor children enrolled in Jamshedpur’s prominent schools under RTE in the year 2012-13 were forced to pay huge sums in the name of educational material. Many children had to drop out since they were unable to pay the tuition fees

State response: HRD deputy director Mallick said the state had not yet come up with specific guidelines for children of economically weaker sections as mandated under Section 2 of RTE. The state, he revealed, had guidelines for BPL/SC/ST children, but not for economically weaker sections. Similarly, the state had not finalised a reimbursement system/policy for schools that enrolled children under RTE

NCPCR order: Finalise a guideline within three weeks and report

Case II: A Mukhiya of Ranchi said that his son studying in Class I of a prominent school in the capital was suspended without reason. He said he had written to higher authorities of the state, but nothing happened

Case VIII: S.Parihar complained that his son studying in Class IX of an East Singhbhum school was suspended without reason in September 2011 because of which he could not appear for his boards

State response: Not aware of the cases

NCPCR order: HRD must take action as the complaints were genuine as pointed out by the commission in June and January. State must submit report within a week

Case IV: Kaushal Kishore of Bokaro claimed urban schools had more teachers at the cost of rural schools

State response: Not true. It seemed so because the state was facing an acute crisis of teachers

NCPCR order: Submit an action plan to fill vacancies within three weeks

Case V: M. Lodha claimed he had reported to East Singhbhum education officer about corporal punishment meted out to his ward, but in vain

State response: Not aware

NCPCR: Finalise punishment for school. “It is ironical that the state has no mechanism to track whether district-level officials are doing their duty.”