Why do we need a State Children’s Policy in Manipur
By Keisam Pradipkumar
Reaching out to the unreached is a path breaking approach towards delivering justice and bringing inclusive development. The direct engagements of publics through “Go to Village”, “Miyaamgee Numit” and “Meeting the Leaders of the Hills” of the present government are some novel and indubitable approaches, that are proving easy access to government, which are crucial for a transparent and accountable governance.
By the same token, reaching to the unreached and marginalised children and strengthening the juvenile justice delivery mechanism is quite indispensible to ensure welfare and justice to the children. Setting up of full bench of Child Welfare Committees in all the districts, formation of the Village Level Child Protection Committees, setting up of SIT in Churachandpur district to combat trans- national human trafficking, increasing of conviction rate on Child Sexual Assault cases, opening of Child friendly police station at Churachandpur District, are few noteworthy footsteps recently taken up in the state. However, we have many miles to walk upon.
Children with Drugs , the unreached community:
Yet another virtually invisible and silent, but highly dreadful onslaught being faced by our children, is the ever expanding magnitude of Drugs and Substance abuse among the children. There is no official statistics to determine the population of the young users. But, also there is no disagreement to conclude that a sizable number of children and young users of (occasional or regular) Spasmo proxivon Capsules, Cough Syrup, Nitrazepam Tablets ( Pharmaceutical drugs), World is Yours ( amphetamine), Heroin, Ganja/Cannabis and alcohol is already impounded, without justifiable intervention in the state. A cursory survey suggests that there shall be an estimated 60,000 (sixty thousand) drugs and substance abuse children, presuming to have a minimum 20 potential users in a village being multiplied by 3000 total villages in the state. Coming to intervention scenario, the state has 20 IRCA (Integrated Rehabilitation and Centre for Addicts) operational under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, which are all adult based and not structured for delivering child friendly treatment and counselling services to the children users. Now, State is extremely in need of establishing few child friendly IRCA, encompassing strategic preventive approaches covering schools, colleges, peers groups and families to curb the dreaded onslaught in war footing manner, if we are committed to save the precious lives of the children.
Further, the state is yet to have a well prepared intervention strategy and action plan for providing health care, nutrition, educational and rehabilitative support for “Children affected and infected by HIV/AIDS.” except proving ART. NACO and UNAIDS have also already recorded the devastating situation of Manipur, which is having the second the highest HIV prevalence (1.43%- 1.17-1.75 ) in the country.
Children’s Education- in a critical juncture:
Elementary education is still in a bad shape in Manipur. As much as, 68% of total Schools in the state belonged to government, whereas private schools comprise nearly 29.4%. However, a sharp reversing fact speaks about a massive gap existing in children’s education, as only 37.4% of total students strength in the state got enrolled in government schools, while around 60% of the students enrolled in private schools. Comparing to national average enrolment rate to Government schools i.e. 60%, Manipur’s status (29.4%) is awfully low. It portrays a silly truth, which testifies that majority of the children are still deprived of Right to free and Compulsory Education, which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 A of the Indian Constitution.
Further the transition rate from lower primary to upper is about 84.7% in Manipur against the national average i.e. 90.1%. The status of infrastructure in Manipur schools is quite pitiable, as only 29.4% schools have boundary walls, against national average of 63.8%. Schools with electricity in Manipur stands at 32.1%, whereas national average is about 57.3%, the status of kitchen sheds in schools are almost half of the national average with 47.3% only. Monitoring and utilisation of central grants is reportedly in a critical position in Manipur. The report of CAG for the year ending March 2017, stated that “Diversion of Rs. 14.02 crore and its subsequent non-recoupment resulted in not less than 644 Kitchen-cum-Stores not being constructed under the Mid-Day Meal scheme”. Unless, a judicious investment for the wholesome growth of children in the State is guaranteed, we cannot hope a blooming education in our soil.
Another terrible trend is the wide practice of sub- letting of government appointed teachers to local substitutes, and involvement of the substitute teachers in mass Corporal Punishment incidents , particularly in hill districts, resulting to grievous injuries and deep trauma to the victim children. In recent times, MCPCR directed to install Biometrics Attendance system in every primary schools ( In the case of two government schools at Noney and Tousem villages). Absence of trained counsellors in the schools is the main reason for resorting to “Corporal Punishment” by the untrained teachers, which has been totally banned. Children must be made accessible to quality child friendly counselling services in all schools to redress their behavioural, drugs and academic related problems.
Spiralling Child Trafficking Issues :
In past State Government in collaboration with the, CWCs, Childline, NGOs rescued trafficked children from Bangalore, Kerala, Chennai, Rajasthan, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar etc. In regard to child trafficking scenario in the state, Ministry of WCD, Government of India published a report and highlighted “The main cause of child trafficking in Manipur is mostly due to the need for quality school education and not merely because of poverty. The mode of recruitment for child trafficking is mostly through the local agents who, almost in all cases, are members of the community or from the same villages where the victim resides. But, due to lack of factual information, it is not able to ascertain the direct involvement of these local agents. The victim were recruited by convincing their families and relatives by promising free school education and free boarding (56.4%) plus Employment (28.2%) and Skill Training (7.7%). This indicates that the trafficker seems to have studied and understand the scenario of Manipur and more particularly at the local level from where they are planning to recruit children. During the period of 2008-2016 (till June 26), 66 incident of child trafficking are reported throughout Manipur and in that 44 incidents are reported from the five hill districts whereas only 22 incidents are reported from the four districts of Imphal valley. The reported number of child trafficking during the period is 530 children. It also reported that 135 children were rescued in the year 2010, which is the highest reported case of child trafficking in Manipur”.
With the opening of Trans Asian Highway, coming up railway connection with state capital, widening of border trade activities, the child traffickers also become more vigorous to grasp the ever unfolding bilateral opportunities. Many girls from the stated have been trafficked to other SE Asian countries through Myanmar. Mass exodus of Rohingya foreign migrants made Manipur, an another easy transit and chosen destination for Rohingya children and girls.
Elopement and POCSO Act :
In recent times, the issues elopement among the young lovers, a culturally acceptable practice, cropped up in a new dimension, apart from child marriage issues. Elopement of a girl who is below 18 years of age, made the involving boys entangled with the stringent provisions of “The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012”. With the “Age of Consent” to sexual relationship was fixed to 18 years , now a boy who elopes a girl under eighteen , is liable to get punishment under POCSO Act, obviously under the charge of committing penetrative sexual assault, which means languishing in prison at least 10 year, irrespective of consensual elopement or not. It is high time to think for changing the practice of elopement with the minors.
State Home department in response to an RTI filed by the MACR- Manipur Alliance for Child Rights, it reveals that till September 2018; there were total 188 FIR cases filed with the department, out of 171 cases are from Valley districts and only 17 cases from the hill. The cases for charge sheet filed by the police department was 103, out of it 96 cases are from the valley districts. This data shows that disclosure of cases and reporting Child Sexual Assault (CSA) cases to the police in hill districts or among the tribal communities is very very low. Customary laws and practices stood as a big stumbling block in the tribal society, where cases of CSA are frequently used to settle through negotiations by village courts, by just imposing fines of some amounts, pigs or cows. These customary justice delivery practices do not have trauma counselling provision, care and protection and rehabilitative measures for the victims, which are essential for restorative justice to the traumatized girls.
Primary health Care :
NFHS-4 findings in regard to infrastructure support to the beneficiary is also not encouraging in the state of Manipur, the institutional delivery rate for Manipur is 69.1, whereas national average is 78.9. If we review the variance in between the urban and rural gaps, it comes out with 26 points that means urban population accessible to institutional delivery more and rural community is deprived of that. NFHS-4 data also reported that the children who received a health check after birth from a doctor/nurse/LHV/ANM/mid wife/other health personnel within 2 days of birth (%) is about 10.7% in comparison to the national average of 24.3%. Strengthening the Infrastructure development and accessibility is a felt need for revamping the primary health facilities in Manipur.
State Children’s Policy, a long due Commitment:
After a laborious process which took almost three years, CRY- Child Rights and You and MACR- Manipur Alliance and Child Rights had developed a draft State Children’s Policy which was submitted to Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights for further initiation . MCPCR took the onus of completing the Draft Policy after sharing and taking the inputs from line departments, stake holders including NCPCR. The completed draft policy was then submitted to the State Government last year for Cabinet approval.
Among others, the then Acting Chief Justice of Hon’ble Manipur High Court Justice N. Kotiswar Singh already echoed the same with the Social Welfare Minister of the State for the formulation and implementation of the a Children’s Policy in the State. In the year 2017, Hon. Chief Minister of the State also announced in media for early adoption of the State children’s policy in the Manipur through Cabinet approval. In the year 2018 again, the Hon. Governor of the state also emphasised the need of adopting the draft Children’s Policy in the State without further delay.
Now everyone is eagerly anticipating the Cabinet Approval of the already submitted draft policy, because without a comprehensive State Children’s Policy, we cannot resolve the various confronting issues, affecting our children’s lives and future. Once the State Cabinet gives its much awaited approval to the draft State Children’s Policy, then the Manipur state will become the first state in whole Eastern Region of India, which owns an all-inclusive State Children’s Policy, under which all measures and mechanisms to ensure the right to survival, right to life, protection, development, and participation related issues of the children in the prevailing Manipur specific situation, are well defined, while a clear-cut road map for making Manipur a Child Friendly state is candidly laid down.
(The writer is a member of Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MCPCR). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )
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