H C Katoch
Our scriptures lay stress with a slogan, “Bal Sanrakshen Rastrasth Bhavishya Ujawalam Bhavti”. Safety of child brightens the future of the country. Thus the child, in other words, prospers the country. Child line works with the mission of 4 C’s i.e Catalyse, Collaborate, Connect and Communicate. Its vision is to make the nation child friendly that guarantees the rights and protection of children. The Ministry of Women and Child Development needs to adopt above slogan instead of the slogan “Noting you do for a child is ever wasted” by Garrison Keillor, American author which contains negative words like nothing and wasted. As such, it speaks of the language of a person with low surface thoughts and needs to be avoided. Child India Foundation has covered 598 Districts and 139 Railway Stations till now by collaborating with NGO’s in these Districts and Railway Stations in the country. For reporting about the child by any one seeing the child in unfavorable condition, 1098 number was exclusively allotted for calls. It made Child line as India’s first 24 hour free emergency phone outreach service for children in need of care and protection and conflict with law linking them to long term services for their care and rehabilitation.
In this way, any child i.e below the age of 18 years and in case of child labour it is 14 years of age and concerned adult can call 1098 and access the child line service any time of the day and night. Various allied systems were roped in for advocacy that included Police, Health care, Juvenile Justice, Transport, Legal, Education, Communication, Media, Political and Community.
In our vast country, 63 percent children go to bed hungry, 53 percent suffer from chronicle nutrition, 125 million estimated children are engaged as labour, 33 million have never gone to school, 72 million children between 5 to 14 years do not have access to basic education, 147 million living in Kacha house, 77 million do not use drinking water from a tape, 85 million have not been immunised, 27 million are severally under paid, 45 percent girls marriage under 18, estimated 178 million children marginalised due to poverty, out of 3, 2 children are abused, out of 69 percent children physically abused in 13 sample states, 54.68 percent were boys, out of those children physically abused in family situation 88.6 percent were physically abused by parents.
The CIF through its Collaborate Partner NGOs seek the help of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) at District level where numerous acts pertaining to the child are covered to safe guard and protect the rights of children. These are, Mines acts-1952, Factories acts- 1948, Registration birth and death- 1969, National policy for child act-1974, Labour law/ child labour/ provisions and prohibition act 1986 and 2016, Immoral trafficking act 1986, National Chartal Act 2003, National plan act 2005, Prohibition of child marriage act-2006, Juvenile justice act 2006/ 2013/ 2015.
There are various measures to help the children in different programmes and schemes like: – Program for juvenile justice, Integrated programme of street children, Sishu Gram scheme, Scheme for working children in need of care and protection, Rajiv Gandhi scheme for the children of working mother, Polar project to combat the trafficking of women and children sexual exploitation, Central adoption resource agency, National child labour project, Swadhar/ ujwala, Short stay home, Scheme for rescue of victims of trafficking, Relief and rehabilitation of rape victims, Kishori shakti yojna, Integrated child protection scheme and Integrated child development scheme.
The Child line and its Collaborate Partners address the problem of Child protection relating to:- Abuses and violence, Trafficking, Child labour, Conflict with law, Child marriage, Child sexual abuse, Without parental care, Street children, Birth registration, Armed conflicts, Disability, Drug abuses, Girl child, HIV- AIDS, Missing children, Disaster and conflicts.
It has been observed that different types of calls are made on telephone number 1098, prominent of them relate to Medical-addiction, Shelter, Repatriation, Emotional support and guidance, Abuse, Rescue, Sponsorship for orphan, Information and referral to other agencies.
The Child line services are charged with the responsibility of creating awareness and involvement of the child in different activities both for education and recreation. The staff of Child line works round the clock in their offices and similarly Child Help Desk Railway Station works through rotation all the 24 hours in booths established at Railway Stations.
The task of Child line staff became hectic during pandemic. It is working both offline and online by connecting with the children by involving their parents. Different methods have been devised for providing Psycho Social Support to the children and refer to counselors and psychiatrist where such need arises. They are also collaborating with Government Departments for creating awareness and rendering help to the needy children.
Child line also sponsors orphan children who contact through either 1098 or detected by the field staff. Child is produced before the CWC which after verification and having satisfied with the credentials of the child recommends to Social Welfare Department for award of scholarship of Rs 2000 per month for education till the child attains the age of 18 years.
Awareness part of 1098 indicating various features is thus exposed to the public. Our field experience shows that major part of our population is ignorant about these characteristics.
Some instances of children helped are available to show as to how the children are taken care by the Collaborate Partners filed staff. To cite an example of one case related to a child is narrated here.
The field staff at Railway Station Udhampur found Govind Sonkar S/o Bacharay R/o Village Chauvepur Sebria Basti U.P. loitering at Railway Station. He was approached and counseled to know all the details. The child was produced before CWC who was given temporary stay at Bal Ashram Udhampur till his cousin brother Raghuvindar Chauhan S/o Hari Ram Chauhan reached and the child was handed over by Child Help Desk Railway Udhampur.
During this pandemic period Psycho Social Support is also being offered with the planned activities like Painting competition, Cooking food, Plantation, Yogic exercises, Breathing exercises, Poster making, Antaxiri, Play with balls, Rural folk songs, hymns and Local dance. This list was generated after conducting awareness and outreach activities in area of operation and was found successful.
The Child line/ Child Help Desks in the country are covering Disability children, Deaf or dumb children, Run away children, Missing children, Children in need, care and protection regarding medical, educational and food. The other category of children is Sexually abused, Children conflict with law, Child labour, Child marriage, without parental care, Street children and Drug abused.
In this context, the duties of the staff are very hard and their salary is very low. This also results in frequent resignations from the posts as soon as they get better opportunities. Their engagement is just like casual workers who have no security of job and do not have any other benefits related to job that are available in Government/ private sector. Ministry of Women and Child Development has never considered this issue since the time CIF was established. The Directors of Child line and Child Help Desks are working in honorary capacity, but are made responsible for appointment of staff as well as its disengagement. Similarly all accounts are to be rendered by the Director to Ministry of Women and Child Development through CIF. This appears a peculiar phenomenon as honorary Directors are running administration and release funds to field staff without any remuneration. The enthusiasm, dedication and hard working employees get affected if the salary remains stagnant for years. As such in the interest of Child welfare this part is quiet essential to be looked after by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
Although, CIF is performing vital role in the society to take care of the children in different situations and adverse conditions, yet it has not been successful to address the issues concerning both the Collaborate Partners and the staff provided to them probably the Ministry staff is not well aware of the field situations and as such the needed requirements are not fulfilled.
(The author is Retd Director Planning J&K Govt. Life Member INTACH J&K Chapter
H C Katoch