The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), headed by retired IAS officer Stuti Kacker, had passed a resolution in February recommending that member secretary Asheem Srivastav be either transferred or repatriated to his parent cadre; it cited “obstructionist” attitude and “misbehaviour”. For his part, Srivastav has taken the commission and chairperson Kacker to Delhi High Court, questioning their authority to pass the resolution against a government appointee while also levelling allegations of financial malpractices and bias towards certain NGOs.
The Indian Express spoke to NCPCR chairperson Stuti Kacker and member secretary Asheem Srivastav on a number issues raised by the latter in his petition:
On competence to pass resolution against Srivastav
Srivastav: The resolution is ultra vires since the chairperson and the members are not authorised under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. Appropriate disciplinary authority is central government as per All India Service Rules.
Kacker: We believe that we have the authority to pass the resolution and it is now for the court to decide.
Srivastav: The move is aimed at removing me since I did not accede to illegal demands of the chairperson. Although she has claimed there were complaints by other members, I have not seen any complaint.
Kacker: It is a small body. Many members complained to me orally.
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On funds to NGOs allegedly in violation of rules
Srivastav: One NGO had adverse past records and submitted fake bills in 2012-13 but the chairperson insisted on providing funds even though I had made specific points that rules do not allow such grants. Also, there are no guidelines to provide funds to NGOs.
Kacker: I have not come across any documents to show fake bills had been submitted by this NGO. The funds were approved by me since there were precedents. We are working on the new guidelines for allocation of money to NGOs.
Srivastav: Despite clear directives by the government to its ministries and department to use services by the National Informatics Centre, the commission has approved a proposal to engage an international agency to provide such services at an annual expenditure of over Rs 1 crore.
Kacker: The proposal to set up an e-platform to give voices to the children was an idea mooted by this NGO. However, the proposal is still under consideration and has not been finalised. Alternatively, we may also ask the NIC again to do it for us and I believe I could convince the NGO to lend to us the idea in larger public interest.
On appointing advisers but not filling advertised posts
Srivastav: The commission came out with a public advertisement in January for filling up various vacancies of consultants but while no appointment was made thereunder, at least four advisers have been appointed on contract.
Kacker: We have not been getting good people to assist us. Since senior people bring expertise and experience on board, some advisers, technically the consultants, have been engaged.
On making online complaint system defunct
Srivastav: The purpose of e-Baalinidan is to provide an online interface for lodging of complaints related to child rights and online tracking of such complaints for suitable actions. However, no complaints are being uploaded on e-Baalinidan anymore, making the entire system defunct.
Kacker: Yes, there have been some issues with e-Baalinidan. It is a very complicated system and therefore, we have approached the NIC to suggest a simpler online platform. We are trying to resolve it.
On not implementing govt mandate on e-office
Srivastav: E-office is shelved in the commission. An important objective of e-office was to to make sure files do not get lost but members in the NCPRC do not use it at all. Files are lost on a routine basis in the Commission.
Kacker: The problem with e-office is that it is not bilingual. We have some members who are conversant only in Hindi but the software is in English. I spoke to the NIC officials too but they failed to provide a solution.
On continuance of an employee under a cloud
Srivastav: I had written against an employee who had sat over certain files relating to recovery of money from some outside agencies. He had also misled the commission on his academic qualifications but instead of conducting an inquiry, the chairperson shifted him to another department.
Kacker: Srivastav had worked with this employee for more than two years before I came and I don’t know what went wrong between them. He has been assigned different work since he is conversant with the functioning of the NCPCR. The complaint against this employee is pending but there are several more important issue relating to child rights that the commission needs to handle.