Delhi: Massive spike in cases of children’s rights violations, DCPCR likely to receive 20,000 complaints
Covid-19 has caused a massive spike in the number of cases related to children’s rights violations. Despite
efforts of the authorities, a lot remains to be done, writes Siddhanta Mishra
Struggling to recover from the setbacks caused by the pandemic, here is a chilling fact for Delhiites. The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) is likely to receive over 20,000 complaints of violations this year. This will be a staggering 2.5 times the complaints the commission has received in the last 12 years.
The DCPCR is a statuary watchdog of the Delhi government in matters pertaining to child rights. With a vision of making the national capital child-labour free by 2023, it has been coming up with new initiatives as well as renewing energy into the existing set-up.
Anurag Kundu, who took over as chairperson of the DCPCR a year ago, launched a helpline number to address the issues of child distress at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in April this year. Any person can register his or her grievance, share information or seek information related to rights of children on this 24x7 helpline. In three months until June, the commission received more than 5,000 complaints. Of these, around 2,200 have been of the SoS category, demanding urgent attention.
“Af ter the commission launched the helpline keeping in mind the needs during the pandemic, there were so many calls related to lack of essential supplies such as ration, medical emergencies and cases of abandoned children. There were Covid testing related requirements, which needed urgent attention. During the past few months, our Juvenile Justice Act division, which deals with missing children, children with one or both parents expired, has witnessed an increase in the number of complaints,” said Kundu.
This DCPCR helpline is operated by five persons. Their primary task is running the mechanism of registering complaints. Once a call is received, the operator asks a set of questions and decides which division of DCPCR the matter should be referred to. That division takes up the concern and forwards it to the concerned department in the Delhi government for timely perusal.
“It would be fair to say that Delhi is performing better compared to other states in matters related to child rights. The state commission is very active in monitoring issues and streamlining the efforts of the government. One good step of the government has been to increase the pay of people working in the social welfare department, which will ensure better quality of work.
During the pandemic, the Delhi government took progressive steps to make the city children friendly” said Satya Prakash, Chief Operating Officer at FXB India Suraksha, a social organisation. Kundu added that in the last three months, the DCPCR helpline has enabled the commission to reach out to more and more children and their families.
Jump in numbers
Going by the current trend, the commission will receive over 20,000 complaints from April 2021 to March 2022. This is a nearly 1300% jump from the average of the past three years and is 2.5 times of the tally of the last 12 years. “This shows how the DCPCR has become accessible to ordinary citizens. It commands their confidence” mentioned Kundu.
According to the DCPCR, SoS complaints were immediately catered to by a designated team of the commission and it was ensured that all these complaints were addressed within 24 hours. Around 85% of the SoS complaints were resolved in 24 hours, while the remaining 15% were resolved within 72 hours. The commission has been able to trace more than 2,029 children who lost either one or both parents due to Covid- 19. Of these, 67 lost both their parents, 651 lost their mother to the virus and 1,311 lost their father. Details of these children have been shared with the Department of Women and Child Development for necessary action on their part.
One of the major reformative steps taken by the Delhi government for ensuring long term results in better child care has been issuing guidelines on Group Foster Care under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015, which was issued last month. The Women and Child Development department has also issued a notice inviting applications for fostering children. Now, children who are not adopted and are declared legally free for adoption by the Child Welfare Committees (CWC), are eligible for foster care, which is provided at shelter homes run by the government.
However, the state of these shelter homes in Delhi is not up to the mark and this was recently found out by the Women and Child Development Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam himself, when he went on a surprise visit to one such place in Kamla Nagar and observed several issues. “During the visit, it was seen that the shelter home was very congested and housed 78 children. The rooms were very small and suffocating and housing children way above their capacity, closed from all sides. The shelter was looking like a jail,” said the minister.
Not in good shape
There are coolers at the shelter but they were not switched on during the day, the rooms were dirty and there was not enough staff, due to which the children had to clean their own rooms. There is no space for them to play outdoor games and the children are not allowed to go out. So they are confined indoors all the time in a suffocating environment. There appeared to be no means of recreation either. “In Delhi, 75 per cent of the shelter homes are run by non-governmental organisation and the remaining are run by the department. DCPCR is the monitoring body for all these shelter homes” informed an official.
As part of monitoring efforts, DCPCR is also supposed to conduct regular inspections of the home. The official informed that ‘virtual inspections’ are conducted almost every week, but there was no news of physical inspection by the District Task Force.
Recognising the vulnerability of children during the pandemic, especially those who lost their parents or families, the Department of Women and Child Development has recently initiated a series of measures to strengthen its efforts towards protection and care of vulnerable children. One of these is the constitution of District Task Forces for each district to attend to the issues and grievances related to children affected by Covid-19. This task force has members from different bodies like District WCD office, District Child Protection Office, Chairman of Child Welfare Committee, SDM (HQ) as nominee of the DM, and a nominated member from the DCPCR. Currently, all districts of Delhi have DTFs.
The Delhi government is also planning to start its own JJMIS (Juvenile Justice Monitoring Information System), a first of its kind for Delhi. This would be a one stop online tracking centre for all the activities related to authorities under the JJ Act. Delhi would be the second state after Bihar to have the JJMIS system in place.
As the pandemic, job losses and reduced family income pushed children towards manual labour, it has become an important job of the commission to rehabilitate them. When it comes to the issues of eradicating child labour, the Delhi government has made progress. DCPCR facilitated the rescue of 331 child labourers in the year 2020-21, compared to a total of 202 children in the preceding three years. DCPCR has an incentive scheme also, to reward citizens and encouraging them to report.
Tackling child distress during Covid
One of the measures taken by the department of Women and Child Development to tackle the
vulnerability faced by children was the constitution of District Task Force in each district to attend
issues related to children who are affected by the pandemic.