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Can newly constituted commission protect rights of children in Manipur?
Despite the concerns raised about the inexperience of its members, the Manipur State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has a huge responsibility in hand. Even though there are reports that political corruption and favouritism ruled the process of appointment of its members, people in Manipur expect that the commission will promote and protect the rights of children.

THE MANIPUR State Social Welfare Department has given birth to the much-desired 'State Commission for Protection of Child Rights' to protect, promote and defend the multi-faceted rights of children of the state on the eve of Children's Day, celebrated few days before across the country.

How effectively will the commission work depends on the past exposure and capacity of the new members. Do the members have ample experience in the field of child rights? Has the selection committee done proper screening of all the applications submitted for membership and picked the best ones up without any pressure and favouritism? The positive answers to these questions will automatically decide the fate of this newly instituted commission.

The lone lady cabinet minister of Manipur, Akoijam Mirabai Devi deserves appreciation for materializing her pledge of instituting the Manipur Commission for protection of Child Rights with seven eminent and experienced personalities who have supposedly contributed well to the promotion of child rights in the state.

Manipur is the 13th state to have such a commission. State Commissions of Assam, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Goa, Delhi, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Sikkim and Uttarakhand have already become functional. West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Jharkhand are yet to appoint their commissions, although notifications for formation have already been issued.

The need has long been felt for a strong and energetic state commission for ensuring child rights in the midst of frequent child trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, forced recruitment, physical assaults, sexual abuses, deprivations, child labour, hunger, illiteracy, rapes, murders and after-all emotional insecurity. Many children in Manipur are still without proper food, proper health care, basic education, enough clothing and emotional security. Children are still openly utilized in hotels, restaurants, automobile workshops and domestic households. Many children do not go to schools in spite of the Right to Education Act, implemented by the central government.

Children becoming victims of insurgency and terrorism are common in Manipur as some underground outfits resort to forced recruitment of the minors against established legal frameworks. Kidnapping of kids for ransom has been witnessed many a time in Manipur. Deportation and trafficking of children outside the state and country for various illegal purposes have also been seen on a wide scale in the state. Only a strong commission can effectively deal with the ugly reality meted out to the minor humans.

At least eight girls were either raped or murdered during the last three months. Other than that the recent rape of a girl student in Manipur and death of an HIV positive girl due to health authority’s negligence, four girls were raped by underground cadres in Khoupum area of Tamenglong district on 5th October last. Cases of Kh. Catherine, Maibam Miranda, Laishram Sumitra Devi and Sinam Sonia Devi are recent instances of brutality against the girl child. The outcomes of investigations into such and many other cases have not been made public for obvious reasons.

In the beginning of 2010, a number of state kids were reported rescued from orphanages of Tamil Nadu. In March 2010, police intercepted an inter-state bus where ten kids including three girls from Churachandpur were being carried for trafficking. Twenty seven children including nine girls were also rescued from unregistered children homes based in Chennai and Kanyakumari in April 2010. These are just a tip of the iceberg in Manipur where child rights have been rampantly violated.

Interestingly, many children are reportedly issued job cards under the NREGS scheme. In spite of huge pouring-in of funds for various schemes and projects related to children, most of the creche centres and anganwadi centres in the state are not functioning properly due to various reasons.

The State Commission for Child Rights has a big responsibility, especially in a state like Manipur. As per the Commissions of Protection of Child Rights Act 2005, the members of the Commission must be persons of eminence, ability, integrity, standing and experience in the fields of education, child health, child development, child welfare, juvenile justice, care of neglected and marginalized children, elimination of child labour, child psychology and laws relating to children. The newly appointed members of Manipur Commission are expected to possess the required traits. The Selection Committee comprising the Minister, the Commissioner and the Director of Social Welfare has skillfully appointed the seven personalities out of more than a hundred applicants. It is not exactly known whether all the applications of candidates were screened, examined and verified properly. Whether the selection was done purely on merit and without any pressure and favouritism will be clearly known from the working of the Commission in future.

The new commission is expected to be a powerful statutory body, which can even withstand pressures from political and bureaucratic circles. Past experiences reveal that important commissions in Manipur could not even make their presence felt durably due to inherent incapacity of the members. The erstwhile Manipur Human Rights Commission met an immature death due to obvious reasons while the existing Manipur State Women Commission exists only in name due to lack of qualified and experienced members.

Newly constituted child rights commission is supposed to nurture healthy children to become the future pillars of the nation, to promote the rights of our children, to protect our children from oppressions, deprivations, atrocities, rapes and murders. Hopefully, it will not be a feeble commission.

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