New Delhi: National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) President Priyank Kanungo has said that providing school education to over 1 crore students studying in unauthorised Madrasas across the country is one of the topmost priorities for the commission.
During an interview with IANS, Kanungo spoke on a host of issues including child trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. Here are some excerpts.
Q: Figures indicate a rise in crimes against children in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. How does the NCPCR see this?
A: Talking about Madhya Pradesh, the POCSO cases are being reported periodically which is a positive sign. But at the same time, it is also true that there has been an increase in crimes against children. And this is happening due to lack of sensitivity in the society, among other reasons. We are trying to get every single such case registered.
Also, some states don’t file the report(s). Proper reportage of such cases are not done from states like Bihar and Jharkhand. Several such cases have come to our notice… the police don’t want to file cases, and suppress the matter.
Q: What steps have been taken by the NCPCR in wake of a number of POCSO cases?
A: Strictest punishments should be handed to the guilty to put brakes on crime against children in the country. Several steps are being taken to increase the rate of conviction. And they would be implemented properly in 2023. Most importantly, the POCSO cases need to be tracked. In that context, we have recently held a meeting with the Juvenile Police Units (in the districts of all states) and its officials. Besides, we also held talks with the lawyers and the judges of the POCSO court. The objective of the meeting was to find a solution by all the stakeholders tasked with providing justice to the children.
Q: What was the reason behind your madrasa-centric campaign?
A: We have prepared a detailed report on the madrasas, and sent them to all the states. Around 1 crore 10 lakh children are there in some madrasas where it is taught that the Sun revolves around the Earth. The mapping of these madrasas has not been done, and the state government also does not have information about them. The NCPCR has told the states to get the mapping of these madrasas done and the children should be rescued and sent to schools.
Q: What kind of complaints are being received from these madrasas and what action the Commission is taking?
A: The children are facing exploitation of sorts in the unauthorised madrasas. The Constitutional rights to education are being disregarded there. Hence, the mapping of such madrasas is required. The process has already been initiated by state governments in Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. In 2022, some cases have also been reported wherein it was claimed that some Hindu children belonging to the Dalit community were being imparted ‘religious teachings’ in the madrasas. The states have been issued directions to rescue those children.
Q: What steps did the Commission take to prevent trafficking of children who are being taken to foreign countries?
A: We held several meetings with all the stakeholders engaged in preventing child trafficking. We also came to know about some new routes that are being used by the traffickers. It was revealed that West Bengal has emerged as a hub for such activities. Appropriate steps are being taken in this regard.
Q: Are child traffickers also carrying out their activities through social media?
A: Social media has in fact become a huge platform for child trafficking. In the upcoming year, we are going to hold talks with the telecom companies… to see to it that children should have limited access to the internet.
Q: You are also being accused of being an agent of the BJP…
A: To what extent is it appropriate to deprive the Muslim children of their rights in the name of appeasement? Does any minority-based institution have the rights to change the country’s demography by converting the children? Regardless of the accusations, we will continue working towards addressing these issues and take corrective measures.
Q: What steps would you take on priority to bring down crimes against children in the upcoming year?
A: In 2023, we would work towards rehabilitation of child labourers. Also, we would try to send the madrasa children to schools. The sensitive matters shall be referred to the court. We would try to ensure that the children don’t face discrimination on the basis of religion, gender or community.