It is of utmost importance that the present administration achieves the objective of well-being, welfare and reintegration of children in Child Care Institutions
By Farooq Ahmad
Starting with the quote of the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, “The children of today will make the India of tomorrow. The way we bring them up will determine the future of the country.” Children are the future of the country has always been quoted time and again. It is them on whom our future depends. But 153 million children worldwide are orphans and without any support and every 13 seconds, a child dies from the effects of Hunger. To overcome all these problems faced by our future assets, the concept of Child Care Institutions has been introduced. Childcare Institution means Children’s Home, Open Shelter, Observation Home, Special Home, Place of Safety, Special Adoption Agency, and a fit facility recognized under the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and Amended Model Rules 2022 for providing care and protection for children who are in need of such services. The Child Care Institutions are separated for children in Need of Care and Protection and Children in Conflict of Law. As per international standards as well as the Juvenile Justice Act, placing the child in institutional care should be a measure of last resort. Children are to be placed in Child Care Institutions (CCIs) only when it is found that the restoration of the child or parents or family may not be in the best interest of the child.
According to the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, all Child Care Institutions (CCIs) need to enlist according to law and at the time of enrolment the state governments should try to record the capacity and motivation behind every establishment. From 2018 to 2020, a special audit report by the National Commission for Protection Of Child Rights (NCPCR) projects that out of 7,163 Child Care Institutions in the country, only 28 percent are still registered with the state governments and those who succeed in getting approval and getting registered for acting as Child Care Institutions, 38% of them don’t have adequate measures to prevent any type of physical and Psychological mistreatment of children. Child Care Institutions in India have been found in an administrative blind spot after cases of sexual abuse and exploitation of inmates have been reported in various CCIs across the country.
I will quote here an example of a rape case in Bihar Sewa Sanklap Evam Vikas Samiti Child Care Institution where 34 out of 42 female children in the age group of 7-17 were sexually assaulted persistently for a long time. Another example of Asylum home in which 11 ladies were assaulted and after getting pregnant they were asked for termination of pregnancy and one among them was killed and undergrounded after raising an objection against the same. In Lok Sabha, Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani said that as per the latest report submitted by the National Commission Protection for Child Rights (NCPCR) 49 child sexual harassment complaints were received in 4 years (2016-21) among which Uttar Pradesh is foremost. As per day to day reports in media like newspapers, social media etc. regarding sexual abuse of children in Child Care Homes has tarnished the image of the Child Care Institutions.
Post-Reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir, a ray of new hope has emerged with the implementation of central laws in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir there are some childcare institutions which are doing a good job for the well-being of the children. But there are institutions especially privately run homes and the homes run by religious leaders which are raising funds and donations from the people for the welfare of the children’s care without being registered under the government and are not using that money for children’s care or well-being. These institutions should be registered under the ambit of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 so that there should a proper vigilance over them because in these unregistered institutions, there are our children who are tomorrow’s future.
No doubt there are regulations and rules concerning Child Care Institutions, the need of the hour is an instrument for strict execution by the respective states then we can expect a superior spot and life for our youngsters in Child Care Institutions, being a definitive objective of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and other conventions signed into for protection and rehabilitation of children.
At the central, state and district levels, a strong mechanism for evaluating the performance of Child Care Homes. A thorough screening and background check of the person(s) who would be dealing with those children should also be done to ensure maximum safety and prevention of any kind of child maltreatment and exploitation. Also, regular inspections and surprise visits should be done by all stakeholders to ensure that all guidelines are being followed so that no report of violence, exploitation or abuse is reported. Thus, it is of utmost importance that the present administration ensures a robust Juvenile Justice System in the UT of JK through proper training and coordination of relevant key players and stakeholders and achieves the objective of well-being, welfare and reintegration of children in Child Care Institutions.
The writer is associated with the Juvenile Justice System in JK UT and can be reached at [email protected]