After being practically non-functional throughout the pandemic due to vacant posts, the Maharashtra Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MCPCR) is all set to create a Bal-Snehi (Child-friendly) Maharashtra with Susieben Shah taking over as the panel’s chairperson. Almost a month into her new charge, Shah spoke to Pallavi Smart on her plan of action. Excerpts from an interview:
Please share some of your plans to achieve ‘Bal Snehi Maharashtra’.
On World Anti Child Labour Day on June 12, the commission plans to launch a website and an app. People from all strata of the society are active digitally now and we must make use of this new platform to create awareness. A Whatsapp number will also be provided. Besides, posters will be put up in each school and police stations addressing the children. The idea is to make children aware of their rights, the existence of commission to seek justice and information on methods to follow. Considering that police stations are the first point of contact in case of violation of child rights, the aim is to make them child-friendly.
Other initiatives include making a Bal diary, like any other school diary, which will give children information about their rights and forums available for help. Apart from that, a booklet will be released for all to learn about the acts available for child rights protection. Individuals who are interested in ensuring child rights may help as ‘Balmitra’ or ‘Balrakshak’.
What will be the focus while creating awareness?
Best of Express Premium
The main focus will be on how the Child Rights Commission as an institution could be accessible to the people of Maharashtra. And also, speedy trials and resolutions, once a complaint or problem reaches the Commission. This will help show that the Commission is effective. Once we create awareness on different acts and norms safeguarding child rights, it is only natural to provide an effective mechanism to address grievances. There is sweeping protection given to the children with the available acts. Under that, a lot of positive steps need to be taken to ensure a Bal-Snehi Maharashtra. It is my job, along with that of my team at the Commission, to ensure that every child in Maharashtra feels protected and is healthy, literate and secured.
The MCPCR lacks effective presence at district level. What are other challenges of the panel, according to you?
There is a serious lacuna in the mechanism. In some places, we have children shelter homes doubling up as hearing places for Child Right Committees. We are in talks with the government regarding this. Women and Child Development minister Yashomati Thakur has assured us that the department will soon ensure that there will be a place in every district where the Children Welfare Committee will be able to hold hearings. Having a dedicated office will not only give them prestige but also powers.
Another key challenge faced by the MCPCR is its reach. We have already prepared an action plan to work on this by designing an outreach programme. We also plan to have transparent collaborations with NGOs working in child protection areas. The NGOs have a large community reach, dedicated talent to work and even funds.
Post-Covid, what are the pressing issues that require the Commission’s attention?
The two most pressing issues are – child labour and child marriage. I will not deny that it did not exist before. But come Covid, it has really exacerbated across districts in Maharashtra. Through our child rights protection committees, we have to come up with an action programme which will act as a deterrent. There are wide and sweeping powers given to the commission under the act and we are a quasi-judicial body. I intend to use it (the power) to the fullest to ensure our children are protected by preparing an action plan which will help take on-the-spot actions upon violation of rights in cases of child labour and child marriage. Compensations have been issued to children who lost their parents during Covid and we will ensure an effective mechanism for proper implementation of this scheme.