No rights for children in Telangana? State child rights body defunct with no members

Every state is mandated under law to have its own commission for the protection of child rights.
No rights for children in Telangana? State child rights body defunct with no members
No rights for children in Telangana? State child rights body defunct with no members
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Even as Telangana sees several cases of child abuse every day, the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) is officially non-existent. 

Until last month, the Telangana unit of the SCPCR had only one member, Achyuta Rao, whose term ended on February 19.

The SCPCR comes under the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), and it is mandated under law for every state to have its own commission.

"Though it exists on paper, there is no functioning commission right now. There should be no gap in its functioning, as it is a legal body and deals with very sensitive cases," Achyuta tells TNM.

Achyuta says that the only option for the state is to appoint new members, or extend his term.

"But, unless I get a written statement from the state government that they're extending my term, I can't take any official decisions," Achyuta points out.

The NCPCR, which was established by a Parliament Act in 2005, mandates that every state should have an own established state unit.

Orders to form the Andhra Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights were first issued in 2012, which stated that the commission would have six members out of which at least two shall be women.

However, it was only in early 2014, that the body was finally constituted. 

"After the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, three members shifted to residual Andhra, while the remaining three of us were part of the Telangana unit. However, since then, one person got another job, while another resigned," Achyuta says.

That is not all. Achyuta says that he hasn't been paid a single month's salary since October 2014. 

Shortly after bifurcation, both commissions functioned from the same office, but were paid by their respective governments.

All was well until November 2014, when Telangana issued a Government Order (GO) for the constitution of its own State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

However, the state did not mention the fate of the present unit, which was still functioning. 

“Since a new GO was issued for appointment of new commission for the state, the old commission is dissolved. That is why salaries are not paid thereafter,” M Prashanti, Deputy Secretary of Women and Child Welfare Department had earlier said.

Achyuta moved the High Court and even got an order which directed the Telangana government to continue paying him the salary. 

"Even the HC order was no use. I'm even considering filing a contempt petition. The state cannot function without a commission, especially when so many cases come in every day," he says.

Mamatha Raghuveer, a former member of the SCPCR told TNIE, “We functioned as a six-member team despite the chairperson, Sujata Rao, a retired IAS officer, who resigned a week after. There was fund crunch and we didn’t have any infrastructure. We started looking at cases working with our own laptops. Our salaries were also not paid regularly, but we went on."

Telangana also fares poorly where child rights are concerned, as several hundred children gets rescued from brick kilns and factories every year in and around Hyderabad alone.

Just last month, nearly 198 minors who were working at a brick kiln in Peddakondur village on the outskirts of Hyderabad, were rescued by the police.

Despite the strict laws to protect children from child labour, in 2016, 300 children were rescued from Hyderabad by an NGO called M Venkatarangaiya (MV) Foundation.

The NGO had also estimated that there were around 40,000 child labourers in the domestic sector alone.

Students in the state, face another type of child abuse -- corporal punishment, with incidents of severe physical violence happening almost on a daily basis.

As of now, Achyuta says that the NCPCR spoke to him and plans to write to the Telangana government.

"Once they write to the state, then the state can issue orders to extend my term, or pick new people for the committee. Either way, it has to happen fast," he adds.

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