The increasing crimes against children across the country remain a matter of concern. Talking to IANS, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Chairman, Priyank Kanoongo said that it is necessary to improve the conviction rate and case reporting mechanism in such cases.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Statistics show that crime against minors is increasing in states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. How does the commission see this?
A: In Madhya Pradesh, reporting of cases is being done properly, which should be seen positively. It is also true that crimes against children have increased. Amongst other reasons, this is also happening due to lack of sensitivity in the society. It has to be seen on a larger scale.
Q: In which states are cases not being reported properly?
A: It is my experience that many states do not write reports at all. States like Bihar and Jharkhand do not report properly and we have come across many such incidents. The police does not want to register a case and hides the matter.
In such a situation, it cannot be said that the state with more cases is in a bad condition. For instance, reports do not get registered at all in West Bengal. The Commission has come across many cases where FIRs have been registered only after our intervention. There is no proper mechanism of reporting the cases in such states.
Q: What steps are being taken by the Commission to fix the case reporting mechanism?
A: We want every case related to children to be reported. For this, we recently held a region-wise meeting of the Juvenile Police Units and the officers affiliated to them in the districts of all states to try to understand the problem.
In this meeting, issues like appointments and police sensitivity were discussed. Its full report is being prepared. Apart from this, we also had a discussion with lawyers and judges of the POCSO court. Its purpose is to ensure that all the stakeholders involved in providing justice to the children should find solutions to these problems.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) law, if implemented properly, can be effective in putting a stop to crimes against children.
Q: The conviction rate in child crimes is also low. What measures are being taken for this?
A: The biggest problem is the rate of conviction. We have found that in cases of children, the conviction rate goes down to 40%. If this increases, then the fear of law will increase in the hearts of the people.
The effect of conviction is dependent on many things. The most important thing is the rehabilitation of children. Apart from this, it is necessary to get the investigation done within the time limit. The law gives one year for the trial, so it is necessary that the police charge sheet should be on time, doctors and concerned officers should record their statements in advance in the first summon.
For this, we have started a portal in collaboration with the State Children’s Commission and other agencies for cases related to crimes against children. This portal will track the progress of children from their counselling to rehabilitation and other issues. We have implemented this in some districts. We have sought suggestions by October 31 regarding the remaining problems. After the suggestions are received, it will be implemented in all the districts.
Q: In many cases, a person known to the child or a closely acquainted person is the culprit, which affects the cases. What is being done about this?
A: Conviction in such cases is being given special attention. Sometimes the neighbour or the accused is domineering, in such cases not only the victim but the entire family has to be rehabilitated. There have also been cases where the victim and their family are threatened during the trial. For this, a proper care plan for the children should be made, social investigation should be done and every aspect should be tracked, only then will conviction be possible.
Q: There have also been many cases related to school teachers where children are unable to complain due to fear. What is the commission doing about this?
A: We have prepared a manual in association with the Ministry of Education regarding schools, which ensures training of teachers and many awareness programmes. Apart from us, state governments also keep organising these.
Q: There is an increase in cases of child trafficking. What steps are being taken in this regard?
A: For this, after the new advisory of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), we have prepared a detailed document.
The trafficking of children is more due to poverty. Some families are unable to provide proper care to the children, so they are trafficked. We have done several case studies, in which it has been found that not all children are unconscious when they are trafficked, instead they are lured away.
We have asked the states to pay attention to this. A survey of such children has also been asked for, especially in areas where child trafficking is high. We have also piloted it in states like Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.
It has been asked to identify such children who may be trafficked. Apart from this, work is also being done to give financial strength to those families through Central government schemes.
Q: There have also been a lot of cases of trafficking children abroad for labour?
A: We have covered 75 border districts including Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh to prevent cross-border child trafficking. We organised meetings with all the stakeholders, through which we identified many new routes of smuggling. We also realised that Indian children are mostly taken to Bhutan. Steps are being taken in this regard.
Q: It has been seen that many times, there is no coordination between the states and the Centre regarding crimes against children?
A: Yes, many states are indifferent. We are working on improving it our own way. We have also created counselling mechanisms.