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Children in India becoming more aware of their rights
Friday August 2, 2013 11:51 AM, Vishal Gulati, IANS

A greater awareness of their rights is leading a growing number of kids all over India to speak out against harassment and abuse by school authorities and other exploiters. But Delhi children top the list.

"Awareness among Delhi's students regarding their rights is quite high compared to those in other states," National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) member Vinod Kumar Tikoo told IANS in Shimla.

He was in Himachal Pradesh to review the state's policies on child rights. He said the maximum number of complaints on violation of child rights were from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

"But Delhi is the only state where the children are writing directly to us. They are complaining of corporal punishments and their abuse. This is what we want," Tikoo said.

He said certain pockets in West Bengal and the entire Jharkhand are notorious for child trafficking.

Each state, he said, has a peculiar problem.

"Girls in West Bengal and Assam are duped with promises of employment and then forced into prostitution or marriage in Punjab and Haryana.

"From Jharkhand, minors are being exploited on the pretext of being provided jobs and ended up as bonded labour."

"Disaster-hit areas are more prone to child trafficking. In these areas, children are generally allured by traffickers and then a majority of them are pushed into the flesh trade. Some of them end up as bonded labourers," he said.

The commission recently toured flash-flood-hit areas of Uttarakhand to determine the status and programmes initiated by the state government to rehabilitate orphaned children.

Tikoo believed that the major problems being faced by the minors can, to a large extent, be resolved with each state setting up a commission for protection of child rights.

"Himachal Pradesh has started the process, but we have told them to speed it up."

Child labour is another area of concern in the state. "We are getting a spate of complaints, mainly from the Kullu and Solan districts. We have apprised the state government of the lack of child implementation laws."

According to him, Section 34 requires mandatory registration of all homes where children in need of care and protection are living.

"Himachal Pradesh has been told to map all the children's homes within two months like Haryana so that they can be monitored effectively and to set up child welfare committees and special children's courts," Tikoo said.

The appointment of inspection committees for the children's homes is also mandatory, he said. Further, appointment of advisory boards by the state governments for the children in need of care and protection is a must.

He said all the states have been directed to start schemes for compensating victims.

"Nineteen states have started compensation schemes and the rest of them have been told to launch it on a priority basis," he said.

The NCPCR member said the Supreme Court, in a landmark decision in May for the protection of children, has made it mandatory to register first information reports (FIRs) within a month in the case of missing children.

A bench headed by now retired chief justice Altamas Kabir and comprising Justices Vikramajit Sen and Sharad Arvind Bobde also held that all cases of missing children across the country are to be registered as cognizable offences and investigated.

Each police station should have at least one juvenile welfare officer to investigate crimes against children, it added.

The NCPCR, one of the youngest commissions, has to its credit getting the police to vacate a school building it had forcibly occupied during an agitation in 2011 against Posco's 12 million tonne steel plant in Odisha.

"The primary school was literally converted into a fortress. We even found some policemen in the school in their underwear," Tikoo said.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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