HYDERABAD: Justice evades children in Telangana who are victims of sexual offences like rape, assault and harassment. While state authorities might pat their backs on the recent crackdown by the police at Yadagirigutta, leading to the arrest of 15 accused persons and rescue of 15 minor girls from the jaws of sex trade, looking at the conviction rate in Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act cases in Telangana, it remains doubtful if these perpetrators of crime will ever be brought to justice.
The conviction rate in POCSO cases has been on a rapid decline in the state. As per figures from the last three National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) publications, the conviction rate in POCSO cases was as low as 15.1 per cent in 2014. It fell to a meagre 9.5 per cent in 2015 and further to a shameful 7.9 per cent in 2016.
In fact, while one might consider Delhi and Uttar Pradesh to be unsafe, the conviction rate in POCSO cases in 2016 in these two places was much higher than in Telangana — 41.9 per cent and 49.4 per cent respectively. Moreover, the conviction rate in POCSO cases in all South Indian states, though poorer than UP or Delhi, is higher than in Telangana — TN (27.1 pc), Kerala (18.9 pc), Karnataka (19.4 pc) and AP (9.3 pc).
Not enough special courts in Telangana
The number of courts tackling the POCSO cases is abysmally low in the state. To a question raised on POCSO courts in the Lok Sabha recently, Minister of Law Ravi Shankar Prasad stated that there are 620 POCSO courts in the country, of which only 10 are in Telangana. The figure is very low compared to states with similar population as Telangana — Jharkhand (24) and Assam (24), both of whom had lesser number of cases registered under POCSO — 821 and 348 respectively against the 1,158 cases registered in Telangana
Lack of political will?
“Is there a lack of political will in Telangana to tackle issues related to child rights?” That is the question the recently released report by the Public Affairs Centre India, a think tank, raises with regard to the difference between the State’s ranking in Public Affairs Index (3rd) and its Child Rights Index (10th). The report ranked Telangana 25th among the 30 States and Union Territories they analysed for ranking, under the theme of ‘Children of India’. Moreover, Telangana was ranked 29th in the category ‘Child Protection’ and 28th in ‘Institutions and Regulations’. For these two categories, PACI analysed various parameters _ child marriage (26.4 pc women in the 20-24 age group that was surveyed got married before the age of 18 in Telangana); sex ratio (874 girls per thousand boys, a little ahead of Haryana’s 836); child labour (4.5% engaged in child labour which is one of the highest in country).
“We looked at the pendency rate of cases related to crimes against children with the police as well as courts. This raises the doubt whether the institutions and regulations meant to help children are playing their role or not. There has to be a political will to make the change happen,” said Dr Lalita Pulavarti, senior manager at Public Affairs Foundation and part of the PACI report development team.