NEW DELHI, June 24: Citing increasing instances of children being targeted in Jammu and Kashmir and the North- East, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has called for strict implementation of the Right to Education Act in such places to check the practice.
The national child rights body also described as “disturbing” and “worrying” reports of children being recruited by extremist groups and targeted by officials in “encounters”.
“Adolescent girls and boys in areas of civil unrest are increasingly falling prey to trafficking, child labour and underground groups.
“This clearly shows the lacuna in the education system in these areas,” Shanta Sinha, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), told.
“These children are far more vulnerable also because we don’t have a universal secondary education system. RTE must be strictly implemented in these places to give newer opportunities and scope for newer dreams,” she said.
Refusing to name any particular group, Sinha said there are increasing instances of children being recruited by “underground” groups and “in rare cases targeted by officials in encounters”.
“Children are being made scapegoats in the crossfire between officials and underground groups. While the former recruits them, they are in rare cases targeted in encounters by officials, who suspect them of being part of some extremist group, even if they are actually not. This is worrying and disturbing,” she said.
Sinha’s observation is buttressed by the annual report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, submitted to the Security Council last week, which said that information had been received on recruitment and use of children by naxalites, particularly in Chhattisgarh and some districts in adjoining states.
The child rights body also expressed concern about the influx of children from “disturbed” areas to other states in search of better education and livelihood.
“This is a displacement of sorts. Children are separated from their families, culture and environment in a manner that is quite exploitative as their parents are usually poor. This only shows the need to bolster the education system, which has been weakened by the unrest,” Sinha said.
She said the government and the child rights body are leaving “no stone unturned” in addressing children’s needs comprehensively in ‘disturbed’ areas and schemes like ‘Bal Bandhu’, implemented in 10 states, have met with “astounding success”.
“Besides, we had in the earlier stage done social audit in 12 states and developed a template to train communities on how to audit schools and to see how RTE is being implemented and it has turned out well.
“We started it as a pilot project and now we are trying to introduce this pilot to all the educational departments and asking them to replicate it,” she said. (PTI)