Satish Kumar Sarma,
Former Head of the Department of Economics, Biswanath College,
Kalyanpur, Biswanath Chariali.
Crimes against children have shown increasing trend over the past four years with significant increase of 13.6% (1,06,958) in 2016 over 94,172 in 2015. Unfortunately NCRB data indicates that rape in India, especially against minors, is on the rise. The menace has spread across the length and breadth of the country. Despite many efforts by government, police, NGOs, CSOs, legal luminaries and others post the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder; such heinous crimes have surfaced repeatedly.
It’s high time for all stakeholders to rethink strategies which can lead to ‘no child sexual abuse’. The focus must be on averting such crimes by drawing time bound plans ‘on a war footing’ with adequate budget and skilled manpower.
Of course there are budgetary constraints which reflect even in the allocation for child protection in the Union budget. But with competent institutional structures and mechanisms already in place such as the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a trained police force, schemes and laws such as ICPS and POCSO, and an aim to optimally utilize existing resources with the support of experienced CSOs while encouraging corporate contributors (CSR), we can ensure a safe environment for our children.
We need to make children and their communities aware of situations where they can fall prey to various crimes. The past few years have seen increased reporting of such crimes. Through NCRB and the special courts data is available that wasn’t readily available earlier. Now we have access to information on types of crimes against children, places of crimes, profiles of the victim, profiles of the accused, etc. An indepth analysis of such data will be useful for creating targeted media campaigns; for designing educational materials that should be shared regularly with children and their communities, to make them aware of potential dangers.
There are many mass media campaigns on prevention of crimes against children by various agencies. But such campaigns are usually launched as and when some serious incidents are reported and they are for short durations. The campaign for safety of children will do better if it is taken up on the lines of the Pulse Polio vaccine campaign, which has had a great impact on eradication of polio from the country. Considering the grim situation of rising crimes against children, child safety campaigns should not only be conducted throughout the year but should also be informed by the experience of previous campaigns and their effectiveness. Hence it is critical for governments, NGOs and others to evaluate the output of their campaigns.
It will also be useful for police to conduct vulnerability location mapping with active participation from children and the NGOs working in those locations. This exercise can draw upon inter-personal communication, wall paintings, screening of films on child safety with children, parents and the elderly.
It can involve organization of ‘prabhat pheries’ (morning campaigns) involving boys and girls from nearby schools along with local NGOs, police officials, anganwadi workers, and teachers; messaging through mobile Bal Suraksha vans with musical alerts and announcements; monitoring of local internet cafes – for example in El Salvador the metropolitan police are blocking child pornography sites in internet cafes; police bike patrolling or a transect walk by police especially in congested colonies; and redeployment of police in conjunction with crime and criminal tracking and network system (CCTNS).
In 2018, the Union home ministry has created a women’s safety division to address issues of women’s safety comprehensively and to deal with them in coordination with the relevant ministries, departments and state governments. This division must make the best use of available data and identify crime intensive areas through vulnerability mapping, encouraging local stakeholder participation leading to targeted campaigns, ensuring a dynamic system where they evaluate campaigns and other interventions. The findings can then be used to create a robust and responsive system that can avert crimes against children.
We all want our children to be safe. Using existing resources, policies and laws we need to act smart to build safer and resilient communities which can negate any attempt to harm the future of this nation, our children.