Protect child rights

Views from Srinagar

Sajad Bazaz

A few weeks back J&K High Court pulled up the J&K government for not implementing Juvenile Justice Act (JJA) in letter and spirit, seeking a proper updated status report in this regard within two weeks.
It was followed by a 2-day ‘state roundtable conference’ on Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act held at Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC).
The working groups in the conference comprising judges, judicial officers, lawyers, police officials and social activists identified the problems, challenges and issues in the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act and came up with their suggestions.
Child rights consisting of Right to Life, Right to Development, Right to Protection and Right to Participation are legally backed by the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Among other things, the Convention makes it responsibility of the state to formulate and put in place laws, procedures, authorities and institutions specifically applicable to the children in conflict with law. It is here a juvenile justice system comes into play to ensure that such children are met with totally different treatment than adults.
We have the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice (Care and Project of Children) Act, 2013, providing safeguards and protections for both the Juvenile in conflict with law and the Child in need of care and protection. Then we have the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2014 which provide for and prescribes the procedure to attain the affirmed and noble objectives of the Act.
However, the implementation of the Act in the State is not satisfactory. For the reception and rehabilitation of Juveniles in Conflict with Law, the government is required to set up Observation Homes and Special Homes in every district or group of districts. Observation homes are institutions for juveniles while their proceedings are underway.
Then there have to be Special Juvenile Police Units. The Police Officers have to be specifically and specially trained in dealing with Juveniles. Then Child Welfare Committee are to be put in place to provide for the care, treatment, protection, rehabilitation and development of the child.
The aim is to uphold the rights of the child.
Do such situations exist on ground? This is a big question mark on the implementation of the Act.
Meanwhile, Juvenile criminal graph does not project anything alarming at our place (J&K), even though we have clusters of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered teens spread across the state.
These clusters owe their origin to the post 1990 conflict situation in which most of these children have lost their parents or have been rendered burdened after bread earner in their homes fell to the bullets.
Now most of these juveniles have been forced to work and earn for themselves and for their families at the tender age.
Over a period of time most of these working juveniles are facing mental health issues and gripped in frustration. Psychologists have located this element of frustration as the root cause of developing criminal mind in juveniles.
If this frustration of the teens remains unattended, heinous criminal activities becomes passionate profession among them. Just lay hand on any child worker to know what made the teen to work at such a tender age instead of going to a school. You will come across stunning facts. Most of them are school dropouts as they had lost their parents and were left with no option but to take up some job to feed the family. In some cases, the parents of the child were crippled due to illness and the pressure on such children was enormous as they had also to negotiate their treatment expenses.
So, these children are by compulsion in work and not deriving pleasure out of it. It gives them and their family livelihood, which is more important than the schooling.
Precisely, child workers are robbed of their childhood. Here child labour is present in every field, as for instance, automobile workshops, transport operations, tea stalls, hotels and restaurants, handicrafts, particularly carpet industry, small vending, black smithy, copper smithy and so on.
It’s here we need a remedy through Juvenile Justice Act for our teens whose childhood stands robbed off.
We cannot expect total eradication of the menace, but it can be controlled.
There’s need to initiate programmes where better working conditions are put in place for these Juvenile workers and save them falling to frustration. —Courtesy: GK

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