With regard to the protection of child rights, what issues are on top of your agenda?
There are many issues which require our focus. Firstly, rehabilitation of children engaged in petty crimes, begging and drugs needs to be done. To achieve this, there is a need to start child-friendly projects where children to be rehabilitated could be engaged.
There is a need to have a separate police station for children arrested in connection with any crime. I am of the view that the children should never be taken to police stations where hardened criminals are kept. There should be specially trained police officials to handle cases in which children are involved. Further, there is a need to start a campaign to bring about awareness in society about children, their rights and duties.
What kind of measures you have in mind to improve the functioning of Snehalaya?
We will focus on individual care which can be provided to children on a day-to-day basis. We need to have an improved rehabilitation system in place for children. There will be an individual case study. Besides, there is a need to develop society ownership. There will be upgradation of security system in Snehalaya to provide secure environment to children.
What do you mean by society ownership?
We want senior citizens to come and spend time with children. They can teach children and help them in getting a clear mindset and resolving their problems. Senior citizens can also help in motivating these children to push them for a better future. They can share their lifetime experiences. Elder generation should play an active role in taking care of underprivileged children. For a better future and better society, that is the need of the hour.
Recently you have been doing inspection of school buses. Did you find any shortcomings?
Yes, the inspection has been really helpful as the issues of buses needed to be addressed because it concerns the safety of children. We impounded buses, issued challans and have asked the school authorities to fill out a proforma and submit it in a week with an undertaking from principals that the issues related to buses carrying students will be addressed. There were schools which had proper and satisfactory security measures in buses.
After buses, what will the next step? Will these inspections be a regular affair?
Now our attention will be on other means of transport that children travel by such as autorickshaws. As it is the decision of the parents, we will initiate talks with them, asking them not to send their children in autorickshaws as these can be unsafe. Traffic police, transport authority will also be involved in helping this initiative of ours. The inspections will be done regularly.
What is the action plan for the children living on the periphery?
Firstly, we are going to start a child mapping project. This has not been done till now. How many children are there in the city? All children don’t need commission’s help. But there is a vast number of underprivileged children and commission will be doing its best to improve their lives. Secondly, we have set a deadline to prepare a blueprint of the events we are going to do in a year. Children from periphery will be part of our action plan.
Will you include any other stakeholders in your action plan?
Absolutely. It will be a collective effort and everyone needs to play some role. By everyone I mean village panchayats, school teachers, doctors, especially child specialists, psychologists, resident welfare associations, child labour commission, NGOs and so on. We will try to involve all those who can help in our initiatives on child rights. A committee will be formed to look into issues of children and to bring awareness.
We have had one meeting with the stakeholders where we held a counselling session to make them aware of issues with regard to children. It was concluded that we need to bring awareness about child labour, how important it is for the children to study and nip the problem in early stage. For the next three months, various awareness campaigns and drives will be conducted.
Any other decisions that were taken during the meeting?
It was also decided that children need to be taught some skills and engaged in sports activity so as to create healthy environment for them. Their enrolment in skill development courses would help them earn livelihood when they grow up.
Child beggary is on the rise in the city and what are the steps being taken to check it?
It has to be done with collective help from Mohali and Panchkula as it a problem of Tricity. So, firstly, like I said earlier, child mapping is a must and then we will include authorities, NGOs to help counsel children and their parents to wean away children from begging and to put them in schools.