“More than 90 per cent of children in rural areas are enrolled in schools. The neonatal deaths per thousand live births is 34. The level of birth registration in Karnataka is more than 90 per cent. Child rights commissions are working effectively.”
These are some of the tall claims made by the Indian government in its third and fourth compiled periodic report submitted to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC), which have been questioned by child rights groups in the state, who are also working on an alternative report.
More than 25 child rights groups, under the Karnataka Child Rights Observatory, have brainstormed over a period of one year to identify several ‘discrepancies’ in the report of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD). The alternative report is likely to be submitted to the UNCRC by June 30 by the India Alliance for Child Rights (IACR), a national child rights body.
“The Indian government’s report is not representative and does not address several glaring issues that children are facing even today. The contradictions in the various Acts pertaining to children stand out in the report making the CRC commitments a mockery,” said Nagasimha G Rao, associate director, Child Rights Trust (CRT), which is Karnataka partner of the IACR. On the ‘extolled’ achievements of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), the KCRO groups have contended that the ‘NCPCR and State Commissions have no power and are not equipped to function well’. India is a signatory to the UNCRC and it is expected to submit a comprehensive report on the status of children and their rights once every five years. Based on official and alternate reports, the UNCRC makes recommendations.
“The official report talks about schemes that are being implemented without any problems, which is not true,” said R Padmini, a former senior adviser to the UN International Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “The Right to Education (RTE) has many implementation problems. The Integrated Child Development Services scheme has been reduced to food supplies and supplements,” she said.
The Juvenile Justice Act, 2006, and its 2007 rules, have been termed ‘structure-less’ by the groups. “Many states don’t have clarity on the JJ Act. States have failed in implementation of this Act,” the groups’ report states. “Unless the government accepts that a person below 18 years of age is a child, all development, protection and other efforts remain fragmented without yielding any results,” Rao said. Even the government’s report admits this. The JJ Act defines a child as a person who has not completed 18 years of age, while the age prescribed for a child in Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956, is 16 and the Child Labour (Prevention and Regulation), Act, 1986, the Factories Act, 1948 and the Mines Act, 1952, prohibits employment of children under 14 years of age.