Children of a Lesser God!

Juvenile Justice laws flouted in Assam jails, children of convicts staring at bleak future

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, March 20: Children living in jails in Assam with convicted parents lack proper care while jail authorities in Assam have been flagrantly violating laws of juvenile justice, a report by the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has indicated.

The commission, during its various monitoring visits to different jails, also came across instances that suspected juveniles were being detained with adult offenders without verifying their age.

The commission had interacted with two suspected juveniles lodged at Silchar Central jail, kept with adult offenders without verifying their age.

“This is a serious issue and the commission has noticed that this practice (of not verifying age) is going on. It defeats the very objectives of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000,” the report said.

The commission has asked the State Home department to look into the age verification matter of the suspected juveniles “very seriously” and instruct the police to follow proper procedure.

During another visit, the commission found a juvenile lodged with militants at Haflong jail. “The district is an insurgency-affected district and a large number of insurgents are in the jail. The presence of the juvenile with other offenders is defeating the objective of the Juvenile Justice act. As per the government rule, one doctor should be appointed in sub jails. The team found that there is not a single doctor in the jail despite having 44 inmates,” the report noted.

In another instance, the commission found that a boy (aged 13 years) of a female convict was handed over to a fruit vendor by Tinsukia police after the mother’s arrest. The boy is now engaged as child labourer.

During the jail visits, the commission found that the convicted women have at least three to four children. “While the children above 3 years age are allowed to stay with their mothers, all those above 6 years age are into child labour. The children are also taken away by traffickers at times. This is a serious concern and it is important that police and child welfare committees coordite to protect the needs of children in need of special care,” the report pointed out.

The commission also found that the Jail Manual of Assam does not have provisions for special care and assistance to children living with their mothers who are foreign tiol detainees, and as such it is hampering their care. The children are deprived of education, health care, nutrition and overall development.

Citing one instance, the commission said that at the Kokrajhar Central Jail – which is also a desigted detention camp of detected foreign tiols – there are 80 female convicts of which 30 are undocumented foreign tiols.  “The children of the foreign tiols are suffering for no reason. Despite attaining the age of schooling, the children lack education, health facilities and were enrolled into any school,” the commission noted.

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