CHENNAI: TAMIL Nadu often takes pride in its police to public ratio, but a recent report by the Bureau of Police Research and Development revealed that in cases related to juveniles, the State lags behind even Bihar and Jharkhand. While there are 46 separate police stations for children in Bihar and 26 in Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu has none. Bihar even has a Special Juvenile Police Unit.
As per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, every police station should have a separate official in the rank of an inspector to deal with such cases. Tamil Nadu, however, does not have any designated officer in that role.
“To deal with cases involving children, all stations in those states have designated officers who wear civil dress. Some stations even have separate rooms for juvenile accused,” said Job Zachariah, chief of UNICEF Tamil Nadu and Kerala, who served there before coming to Chennai. “A special officer who has knowledge about juvenile laws and a good understanding on how to deal with children is necessary. Separate police stations are the best option, but if not, at least designated officials should be at all stations,” Zachariah added.
The absence of such a support system is stark when looked at against the backdrop of repeated escapes from juvenile homes in the State. “In the present situation, there is no separate official to conduct inquiries in these cases. Juvenile delinquents are treated like adult accused,” said Andrew Sesuraj, State convenor of the Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory, an NGO.
Besides the frequent troubles at observation homes for juveniles, activists often cite instances like the one in Neelangarai where a boy was shot at and another in T Nagar where a group of teenagers was forced to perform sexual acts.
The State does not have a Commissioner of Protection of Child Rights, an important body to monitor juvenile crimes and crimes against children. “There is no safety for children inside the police stations in Tamil Nadu,” alleged A Devaneyan, director of child rights organisation Thozhamai.
Commenting on the demand for separate personnel and a facility to deal with crimes related to children, a top official said that in each station, a head constable and sub-inspector rank officials have been designated as child welfare officers. Ruling out the setting up of separate police stations, he added, “It is very expensive. If we do so, everyone would ask for a separate station.”
However, former DGP G Thilagavathi said these child welfare officers existed only on paper, not in the station or on the field. “There was a model police initiative about two decades ago to take care of crimes involving children. It is no longer there,” she said, adding that a separate police station or even an exclusive wing was necessary to deal with this important matter.
The Jharkhand experience
There are 502 police stations in Jharkhand, all of which have separate child welfare officers. “The UNICEF trains police personnel on protecting child rights. The stations that adhere to the 21-point guideline are regularly certified by the State DGP as Child Friendly Police Station (CFPS). As of now, there are 26 CFPSs in Jharkhand,” said Jharkhand UNICEF Chief Field Officer Dr Madhulika Jonathan.
According to Ramgarh SP Dr M Tamilvanan, all the 24 police districts in the State have a separate police station for children that often adjoins the women’s station. Separate rooms that do not look like an ordinary police station are provided. A separate inspector-rank official would be there to take care of the cases, and all station house officers are women. “These personnel would not be in uniform. They conduct annual surveys across the country for children from Jharkhand in bonded labour, or in some cases, prostitution. They have rescued 800 children in the recent years,” Tamilvanan said.