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40% children in India living in difficult situations: Justice Balakrishnan
Justice K G Balakrishnan, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission, expressed concern that an estimated 40 per cent of 43 crore children, in age group of 0-18 years are living in difficult situations in the country.

ADDRESSING A national conference on “Missing Children”, organised by NHRC in New Delhi, he deplored that these children are vulnerable to many natural and man-made circumstances leading to their exploitation.

Justice Balakrishnan said that despite so many interventions including from the NHRC and MHA the data on missing children is not being maintained properly by all the states. There is a need to overcome the chasm between the intent and implementation of initiatives for protection of child to overcome the problem, he said.

Quoting NCRB data of 2011, he said that 76,125 children were reported missing and of these, 30,811 were still untraceable and most of them were girls. West Bengal reported the highest number of 19,254, followed by 12,154 from Madhya Pradesh, 6,054 from Delhi and 5,470 from Andhra Pradesh. The situation was not encouraging in the States of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.

Prof. Shantha Sinha, Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) inaugurating the conference said that prompt information on missing children to the Commission would help their cause. She said that without cooperation from all the stakeholders’ one faces at times a situation of extreme helplessness.?

Mr. Prem Narain, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development said that as per an official estimate 60-70 thousand children go missing every year. Out of this, 30-40 per cent remained untraced. However, the government was committed to overcome this problem with cooperation from various stakeholders including state agencies, NHRC, Child Rights Commissions, civil society. He said that missing children tracking system has been developed by NIC, which, if used effectively, would help reduce the problem. Integrated child protection scheme was also being implemented by the Ministry.

The conference suggested that child related problems have to be made more visible. Various planning measures should not stop at district level. There is a need to go further into sub-District and even household level. It felt that community has to play a major role through Welfare Committees, involving school teachers, anganwadis workers and Punchayat representatives etc.

The conference noted that Child Line Services being important, have to be streamlined and encouraged, FIR should be allowed to be lodged in all cases of missing children and regular reports by states have to be sent to NCPCR. At the same time, feedback needs to be given to parents. Missing Persons Bureau should be established in all states.

It asked the states having child-tracking system should migrate to the National Tracking System for missing and vulnerable Children being developed by Ministry of Woman and Child Development. Hardware has to be made available. It felt for a strong Need for Child Relief Fund, proper counselling and residential facilities for homeless. Sufficient compensation has to be ensured for trafficked children as in case of rescued child labour.

It recommended that children up to 18 years should be covered and distinction made between hazardous and non-hazardous industries should go and asked for establishment of a Central Agency to trace missing children. It said that emergency Response System not only to be provided but to be taken very seriously by all stakeholders as First 24 hours were crucial in the opinion of all.

It observed that accountability not only needs to be ensured but responsibility has to be fixed for deviant action of public servants. This will itself be a cardinal prevention device. In order to have a permanent solution to the problem of missing children, it said, poverty in general has to be ameliorated by providing land to landless.

 

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