AS THEY took the stage one by one, over 35 boys who have been ‘children in conflict with law’ spoke about their achievements in the past few years. “Main nashe se bohot dur ho gaya hun [I have moved very far from addiction],” one of them said. After spending four months in a de-addiction centre, the Class IX drop-out is now gearing up to return to studying.
Others spoke about their jobs in food start-ups or malls, two others spoke about their cricket careers.
Each of them was felicitated by the Mumbai police along with the Resource Cell for Juvenile Justice, a field action project of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, working at the Dongri Observation Home on Children’s Day on Monday.
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“Most of you here were probably reprimanded by us at some point including the police, probation officers, Juvenile Justice Board and social workers. You must be wondering why the same people are felicitating you today? For all of us in the juvenile justice system, the most important motive is to see to your rehabilitation,” said principal magistrate, Gauri Jadhav, Juvenile Justice Board, Mumbai city.
In 2015, the Mumbai police carried out a city-wide drive called Social Integration of Juveniles, reaching out to over 4,500 children who were in conflict with the law between the years 2009 and 2014.
DCP (Enforcement) Pravinkumar Patil said that the objective of the survey was to assist rehabilitation of the children in need.
“The children are like our kids at home who could have committed the offence out of various reasons including poverty and/or illiteracy.
There is a need to bring them back to the mainstream and to sensitise the masses, not just the authorities working with them,” Patil said at the function.
A parent of one of the boys said, “He was at the Dongri home for seven months, but after help from those working in the system, he managed to go back to playing cricket — which he loves — on being released. Now, he is being coached at one of the clubs in Mumbai. I hope he can move beyond his identity as an offender.”
Another 17-year old has also been selected for a district-level tournament, and he dreams of going to England for coaching. The journey to the ‘mainstream’ has not been easy for all. One of them, after completing training in hotel management, is still struggling with his past status as an offender to get a job.