Today, November 14th, Children’s Day, should be a day for us to reassess our responsibilities towards children - a responsibility of protecting them & helping build a good future for them. #ChildrensDay
Recent spate of crimes against the most vulnerable members of our society have proved that we are failing & letting them down repeatedly in #Bengaluru city. #BigBengaluruFight
Here’s how we can ensure our children are safe:
1a. Government & CM is responsible for safety of all children & must be held to account
Education department licenses & regulates schools. So Accountability within Govt for child safety at schools rests with the Department of Education, the Minister & the administrative team including Block Education Officer. The Government of Karnataka must fix accountability on the Department of Public Instructions, & should be given the power to regulate all schools & ensure actions against illegal schools acting with impunity & flouting rules.
The Department of Education is responsible for ensuring the compliance of schools with guidelines & culpability in this regard must rest with officials in the Department of Public Instruction, including Block Education Officers tasked with regulating schools in their jurisdiction. It is shocking that despite several similar incidents in the past, none of the Block Education Officers overseeing the concerned schools were held responsible, expect a single BEO who was merely suspended in the Orchid School case. Hence responsibility fixed on those who are responsible within the government machinery either for letting illegal schools to function or exhibiting lapses in enforcing guidelines
1b. School Managements & Principle fully accountable for child’s safety whilst in school & school buses
School managements must be brought under the ambit of the law and school managements and teachers must be made accountable and responsible for the safety of children in school premises. The Department of Public Instruction must make it mandatory for all schools to conduct annual safety audits, and make report compliance of the same to the Department of Public Instructions. The safety audit reports should also be made available in the public domain and made accessible to the parents.
2. Better Prevention by protecting our children from known Child predators & making Bengaluru unwelcome for Child predators
2a. Child Sexual Offenders Registry
There is an urgent need for Home Ministry n Police to create and manage child sexual offenders registry . This should be public and made available to schools and media. Child offenders should not find a place in our city. This is critical because Almost 50 % of all sexual offenders are repeat offenders. The Government and Home Department must create a Sexual Offenders Registry on the line of existing Registries in the UK and USA that have Central databases for sexual offenders.
2b. Rigorous Verification Processes
I. Govt must institute a rigorous verification process while hiring school staff. Government must also conduct an enquiry into the due diligence currently employed by schools. While the Karnataka Government has instituted guidelines in light of previous cases, efficacy lies only in its proper implementation.
II. Verification of presently employed staff, support staff & any other personnel having unsupervised access to children (van drivers etc) must be conducted in a time bound manner. Government must set up a centralized data base for information sharing between various jurisdictional police stations.
2c. Need for Effective Special Child Crime Cells in Police Stations
There are many instances where similar crimes have been committed and the perpetrators have gone unpunished. While the Juvenile Justice Act provides for Special Juvenile Police Units and designated Child Welfare Officers in Police Stations, frequent transfers and lack of training have made them ineffective. The Police Department must avoid frequent transfers of trained officers.
3. Bengaluru should swiftly prosecute criminals & crimes against Children
3a. Sensitization of Police
The Government & Home Department must make sure the Police are sensitized to and responsive to the growing incidents of these crimes. The Police Department must ensure specialized training modules to create awareness of the POCSO Act and also adequately publicize Model POCSO Guidelines issued under section 39 of the POCSO Act for Use of Professionals and Experts.
3b. Designated & Fast Track Courts
The Government must appoint Public prosecutors with experience in handling cases of Child Sexual Abuse. While Sec 28 of the POCSO Act designates Special Courts for the purposes of providing speedy trial, most cases have been brought under regular courts, denying children the right to a child-friendly system. The failure to set up fast track courts is yet another instance of diluting the message of a Zero Tolerance to such crimes.
These are just the first steps. Creating a #ChildSafeBengaluru will take months & years of focussed effort. While we are making a good start now there needs to sustained effort on all our parts - Media, citizens, teachers, parents, schools & Govt, so let us as a society, keep the focus till we get there! This Children’s Day, let’s take a pledge to create for our children a #ChildSafeBengaluru.