RAJASTHAN: Alarmed over the rising cases of child abuse at a time when discussing such matters is a family taboo, an IAS officer in Rajasthan has launched a special drive to sensitise schoolchildren about good and bad touch.
Panchayati Raj Secretary in Rajasthan, Naveen Jain, recalls how news items on physical abuse and harassment of children prompted him to do something. He contacted Jyoti Anand who runs an NGO in Delhi and requested her to come to Jaipur and spell out the steps needed to save kids from physical abuse. At Jain’s behest, the NGO organised awareness programmes in four schools of the city.
Since then, Jain decided to move forward, making changes in the awareness content as per the language and local conditions in Rajasthan. The officer chose the ‘Saturday for Society’ weekly model. This way he could do his government job five days a week and devote Saturdays to the cause.
Jain, a 2001 batch IAS officer, created a Facebook page called ‘Sparsh ek Pahal’. He teamed up with Priyanka and Vikram, who are consultants. They held their first programme at a government girls school near their home and organised similar events in many other schools. He was also able to sign up many people.
“When I was the health secretary, I made a lot of efforts to stop female foeticide. I believe I am a doer who cannot remain silent in the face of grave injustice done to children,” says Jain. Involving people on such a sensitive issue is not easy. “We have to be extremely careful, while broaching the subject with children; we have to act keeping in mind child psychology. For instance, when children are too young, we don’t have to be direct about ‘bad touch. Instead, we tell them about four body parts and tell them that if any member of the house or from outside forcibly touches these limbs, they should protest and inform one’s parents. The same goes for digital bad touch,” says Jain.
Typically, in a 45-minute session, Jain and his group select children from the age group of 4 to 12 years. There are not more than 200 children in each session. “Eye contact with children, however, is very important. Wherever we have a projector, we offer AV presentations, and when we don’t have a projector, we offer presentations on ‘good and bad touch’ through a flexi sheet,” says Jain.
The counsellors describe personal safety rules, advising children how to deal with strangers, housekeepers, bus conductors, couriers and gardeners. They are also told that if someone finds them alone and tries a ‘bad touch’, then how to avoid them in three steps. “The kids are told to adopt a ‘no, go, tell’ strategy which revolves around shouting ‘no’, running away and getting someone to share the experience. If parents are not around, the kids are also told about the child helpline number 109,” explains the officer.
Jain lists National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) figures that show an alarming situation. The data reveals that 53 out of 100 cases involve boys and not girls and in 83 per cent cases, the suspects know the victims. He believes that if kids are given basic tips, then 80 per cent of the cases can be avoided. “That is the real aim of my mission,” he says.
NCRB figures say about 50 per cent of children in the country face abuse at one time or the other. Cyber and heinous crimes are also growing rapidly. Jain says he along with his team members has prepared a separate model for children studying from class 9 to 12, cautioning them about the POCSO Act and the Nirbhaya case. He also advises high school students that “nothing gets deleted from cyberspace.”
Children living in slums are a special priority for Jain’s training programmes, as they are prone to such crimes. “Parents of such children work as labourers. These children live alone most of the day. We can understand how they are lured for a samosa or chocolate.”Jain, for whom psychology has been a favourite subject, is a motivational speaker as well. Along with psychologist Navin Saraswat, he also runs a YouTube channel related to the ‘Saturday for Society’ campaign.