Arunachal grapples with spate in child rights abuse

[ Tongam Rina ]
ITANAGAR, Nov 15: There has been a spate in violation of child rights, including child labour and violence in Arunachal.
Records reveal that the Itanagar Unit of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) alone receives upto 20 cases of violation of child rights in a month.
According to Childline, Itanagar, between Jan 2016 to July 2017, there were 157 cases of which an overwhelming 91were regarding child labour, 12 missing children cases and 19 where a child required permanent shelter. Childline also recorded nine cases of counseling, mostly for pornography and substance addictions.
Chairperson of CWC, Itanagar, Kani Nada Maling said that the statistics will be much higher if citizens come forward to report cases of child labour and other violations of child rights.
The coordinator of Childline, Itanagar, Jumtum Minga says that most cases of child labour involve children of Adivasi community from Assam, migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Chakma refugees and poor tribal Arunachalee families, mostly from the eastern districts of Tirap, Namsai, Longding and the Puroiks, an erstwhile bonded labour community spread across four districts in the state.
Almost all employees or abusers are Arunachalee tribal families who make the most out of the poverty of the parents of these vulnerable children.
Kani says that many children that the CWC have rescued have telltale signs of physical, psychological and sexual assaults.
To deal with growing number of child right violation cases, the state is ill equipped with only six Child Care Institutes (CCI) of which only four are functional.
Of the six, Oju Mission, Missionaries of charity’s Shishu Bhavan in Naharlagun, Achu Kuru, Ziro and Nani Mariya Children’s home in Roing are functional, according to the Director of Women and Child Development department, Tokmem Pertin Loyi.
The ones in Tawang and Yachuli in Lower Subansiri have been non-starters. The Director informed that the ineffective CCI will not have their contract renewed.
But lack of Child Care Institutes is not the only impediment to rehabilitation of the rescued children in the state.
Of the 21 CWCs across Arunachal, only Ziro in Lower Subansori and Itanagar, the capital town of the state is active, records reveal.
Jumtum says that many cases have not been effectively handled or are pending because of ineffective CWCs.
“CWCs of Itanagar and Ziro have been dependable while rest across the state is still in slumber. Forget about working for the children’s rights, they don’t even pick up calls” he says.
Jumtum says that it is time the CWCs are activated across the state.
“Children as young as two years are engaged in works. They are beaten up by employees because they can’t perform the household chores. People forget that they are still babies”, he says.
Instances of child labour are horrific in the state, he says.
The Itanagar unit of CWC, which receives the most number of cases, is ill-equipped to deal with the sheer number of cases.
“We have an office and necessary equipment thanks to the proactive district administration, said Kani. But the CWC or even the Childline is without a vehicle. The state Police, one of the stakeholders is not always able to provide vehicles though it helps out on many occasions”, she says.
Kani often has to use her own resources to send people on rescue mission of children.
And CWC, Itanagar does not have a separate District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) even though it is a separate administrative unit. It functions under Papum Pare, the adjoining district.
The Deputy Commissioner, Prince Dhawan had written to the Secretary, Women and Child development Department seeking notification for a separate DCPU at Capital complex.
” A separate DCPU is needed for the Capital complex to co-ordinate and implement all the child rights and protection activities”, reads the letter written by the DC.
Kani says that a separate DCPU will help in effective coordination.
This daily contacted the General Secretary, Indian Council for Child Welfare, Arunachal Pradesh chapter Mepung Tadar Bage to find out ways and means to protect children in need of support and care.
Mepung says that the Central Government’s Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) needs to be implemented in totality.
“More training should be imparted to all the stakeholders in realising the rights of the child under the ICPS scheme. Mere setting up of CWCs will not serve the purpose, unless more shelter homes and professional social workers are in place . There is urgent need to train all the CWC members so as to know their roles and responsibilities” she says.
Mepung suggests that there has to be more Childline services across Arunachal.
She further calls for convergence between the Police and the Labour department to help the CWS.
Chairperson, Arunachal Pradesh State Commission for Women-cum-Protection of Child Rights, Mitali Tingkhatra says that the state has lots more to do when it comes to protection of child rights.
“The CWC should be made functional and trained. More awareness campaign regarding myriad laws and protection mechanism available for protection of children must be done”, Mitali says.
Crimes against children are being reported which indicates that it’s high time that a separate Children’s Commission is formed so that it can work dedicatedly for the children, she said.
Ineffective CWS apart, even the active CWC office bearers this daily spoke to have not been paid their meager honorarium of Rs 1000 per sitting in the last one year.
The WCD department says that fund is yet to be received from the centre which has led to delay in the disbursement of honorariums.
While the vulnerable children continue to cry for help and attention, even those involved in rescue have often been at the receiving end of abuses from perpetrators right in the middle of their work and elsewhere in the streets.
“I have lost count of verbal abuses from the accused, in person and on phone”, says Kani as she laughs off the instances.
“I have to do my job. My prime duty is protection of children in need and these abuses won’t deter me”, she says.
Jumtum too has been abused a number of times.
“It has become part of my job to endure abuses from the same people who should be in jail for their crimes”, he says.
(Childline is India’s first 24 hour free emergency phone outreach service for children in need of care and protection. One has to dial 1098 to avail its assistance)