Guwahati: Assam Police in collaboration with UNICEF India and nongovernmental organization, UTSAH, launched Sishu Mitra (child-friendly) Programme, with the goal to promote child-friendly policing in Assam.
The programme was launched by Sarbananda Sonowal, Chief Minister of Assam, in the presence of Pramila Rani Brahma, Minister of Social Welfare and Soil Conservation, Government of Assam, and Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF India Country Representative.
Kuladhar Saikia, Director General of Police, Assam; Kumar Sanjay Krishan, Additional Chief Secretary, Home; Harmeet Singh, Additional Director General of Police, Assam; and Miguel Queah Das, Executive Director, UTSAH, too graced the occasion along with other senior members of the police force, civil society, academia, students and development partners.
Besides announcing a series of initiatives to make the police sensitive towards children, a Child-Friendly Police Kit was also launched as a part of the Sishu Mitra Programme. The kit contains a child-friendly jacket and a Dos and Don’ts Manual in Assamese. The POCSO Act 2012, mandates the police to not wear their uniform while recording the statement of children. However, due to paucity of time and other practical constraints, these procedural provisions are often overlooked. The newly launched jackets have been designed to address this challenge. These jackets have a child-friendly colour that would help in altering the mood and behaviour of children when they meet the Police. The Child Welfare Police Officer or any other police personnel going to meet a child will have to wear this jacket and use the kit.
Delivering his valedictory speech, Chief Minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal said, “It is important for various stakeholders to come together, to collaborate to ensure children’s rights are protected. But moreover, it requires a concentrated effort from the entire society.”
In India, 35 per cent of all reported cases of crimes against children is sexual offences, while 95 per cent of perpetrators in cases of child rape are known to the victim 1. A large number of India’s 450 million children2 have been exposed to violence, and their safety and well-being have been compromised in homes, communities, schools, places of work, childcare institutions and even in digital spaces.
Protecting the rights of children is the foremost mandate of the state and a key responsibility of the police. A large number of children in the state are vulnerable to exploitation, labour, trafficking, early marriage and sexual abuse. Speaking on the importance of every police officer recognizing and understanding the needs of children, Director General of Police Assam, Kuladhar Saikia (IPS) said, “Every child needs a proper atmosphere to develop. Most of the times the police is not aware of the procedures of interacting and dealing with children. I am happy about the launch of this programme.” 1 National Crime Record Bureau, 2016 2 UNICEF (2017) The State of the World’s Children 2017 – Children in a Digital World Page 2 of 3 The work of the police is about frontline delivery, keeping people safe, supporting victims and administering the law. Unlike other duty bearers, police play a major role in protecting children, and the challenge becomes multi-fold when it comes to dealing with issues of children and women within the domestic and international legal framework. Speaking on the occasion, UNICEF India Country Representative, Yasmin Ali Haque said, “The social and emotional development of children, whether survivors of violence, be it emotional, physical or sexual, or in conflict with law gets undermined. The affected children need legal and economic support, along with access to accommodation, education and medical aid to help them rebuild their lives. The role of the police is not restricted to gathering evidence in investigations. Having child-friendly police forces will go a long way towards establishing procedures as prescribed by the law. This requires an additional skill set, capacity, and familiarity of child-friendly approaches with an emphasis on understanding child psychology.”
Globally, this year is the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) and 100 years of Child Rights Movement. In Assam, the government and development partners are working to enable a secure, safe, happy and healthy childhood for all children, in support of the Sustainable Development Goals3 (SDGs) including – Goal 16 (2).
In this light, Harmeet Singh, ADGP spoke about the Assam Police Sishu Mitra Programme, which is a joint initiative of the GoA-UNICEF-CSO. He said, “As part of the Assam Police Sishu Mitra Programme, a child-friendly police kit has been launched today, which included a police jacket, and a Dos and Don’ts manual for the police to use. Moving forward, a series of training have been planned that would include the creation of child-friendly police corners in every police station, and raising awareness on ending violence against children in Assam.”
Also, UTSAH’s Executive Director, Miguel Queah Das introduced the concept of “Child Friendly Police”, and said, “To make the police child friendly, police station infrastructure needs to be transformed, police officials need to be sensitized, and their wellbeing needs to be considered to ensure they can adequately deal and interact with children.” The programme ended with a vote of thanks by UNICEF Chief of Assam Office, Dr. Tushar Rane, who spoke about the important partnership between the Assam Police, UNICEF and UTSAH, and the programme being an important milestone in the way of realizing the rights of every child in Assam.