Use technology for welfare of children : Supreme Court

 India’s status as a technological power house in the world would remain on paper if the state does not take advantage of its resources to benefit the children or track the missing ones, the Supreme Court has said.

The Supreme court, while stressing the need for use of technology in Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) and Child Welfare Committees (CWC), said it was “disheartened” that there was an acute shortage of computers and peripherals in these bodies.

A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said the use of technology would help in dealing with crucial issues like tracing and tracking of missing children, rescuing those working in hazardous industries and victims of child sexual abuse.

“It is well-known that our country is a technological power-house and if we are unable to take advantage of the resources available with us and fully utilise the benefits of technology through computers and the internet for the benefit of children, our status as a technological power house would be in jeopardy and would remain only on paper,” the bench said.

It said the data regarding children could be easily collected by using computers and the internet.

“This would be of great assistance in planning and management of resources and MWCD (Ministry of Women and Child Development) and others concerned with child rights must take full advantage of this,” the bench said.

The apex court also said that the Centre and states needed to look into this aspect and provide necessary software and hardware to JJBs and CWCs for their functioning.

“Similarly, the use of video conferencing could also be considered in appropriate cases where some inconvenience to the juvenile in conflict with law necessitates the use of video conferencing facilities,” it said.

The top court complimented the MWCD for bringing out an online central monitoring system in this regard but said it was “unfortunate” that there was not much active cooperation of the states in updating the information on this system.

It asked the states to update the information on the online monitoring system “once a quarter”, adding “surely that cannot be a difficult task”.

“Needless to say, updating information is extremely important so that there can be efficient planning which will ultimately lead to better management of issues concerning children,” the bench said.

It directed the MWCD to continue to make creative use of information and communication technology not only for the purpose of collecting data but also for other issues connected with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.

“With the utilisation of technology to the fullest extent, administrative efficiency will improve considerably, which in turn will have a positive impact on the lives of children,” it said.

The court said this in a judgement in which it passed a slew of directions for implementation of provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.

The verdict came on a PIL seeking implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act and its rules. The petition has raised the issue of alleged apathy by the governments in implementing the welfare measure.

Seemandhra electricity employees defer strike

The electricity employees of Seemandhra regions of Andhra Pradesh Wednesday agreed to postpone their indefinite strike till Sep 16, following an appeal by Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy. Over 30,000 electricity employees in Seemandhra, as Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions are collectively known, had threatened to go on strike from Wednesday midnight to protest the proposed bifurcation of the state.

Leaders of Seemandhra electricity employees’ Joint Action Committee (JAC) agreed to defer their plans following a meeting with the chief minister in the evening. The chief minister appealed to them to reconsider their decision in view of the inconvenience their strike would cause to the people.

The JAC had earlier served strike notices on Andhra Pradesh Generation Corporation (Apgenco), Andhra Pradesh Transmission Corp (Aptransco) and various distribution companies. They were to join over six lakh government employees and teachers who are on indefinite strike from Aug 13, demanding Congress Working Committee (CWC) to withdraw its decision to carve out separate Telangana state.

ApgGenco and Aptransco chairmen and managing directors had earlier appealed to the employees to reconsider their decision. The proposed strike by electricity employees threatened to affect power generation and transmission in all three regions of the state but also hit the southern grid as all four southern states – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu – are interlinked. Seemandhra accounts for the bulk of power generation in the state.

It has two major thermal power plants and two hydel power plants. The protests against CWC’s July 30 decision continued in 13 districts of Seemandhra for 43rd day Wednesday. The strike has paralysed the state administration while the buses of state-owned Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corp remained off the roads. All government-run educational institutions are also shut.

(Source: IANS)

Delhi offers no shelter for mentally challenged girls: CWC member

There are no shelter homes formentally challenged girls in Delhi, a member of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) said on Saturday.

“There are no shelter homes for mentally challenged girls in the national capital. We need to look into this matter,” Charu Makkar, a member of the CWC said, in the course of a day-long discussion on government schemes for underprivileged children at India International Centre.

Makkar said that cases of assault on such girls, who are especially vulnerable, were reported from both within and outside homes, and added that there was thus special need to offer such girls shelter. “There is a serious need to curb their problem,” she said.

Additional deputy commissioner of police Sanjay Bhatia said that the police force was committed to the protection of every child.

There are several schemes initiated by Delhi Police for helping such girls develop their skills, Bhatia said, adding that other agencies too should help develop the skills of underprivileged children.

The discussion was organised by Childhood Enhancement Through Training and Action (CHETNA), an NGO devoted to the cause of street and working children, which is making an assessment of government-sponsored schemes for underprivileged children at the state and national levels.


SC declines AP govt’s plea against Babhali barrage

The plea of Andhra Pradesh government has been declined by the Supreme Court which was against the construction of Babhali barrage by Maharashtra in Nanded district for utilising the water of Godavari river.

The apex court told, “On the basis of facts which have come on record, a case of substantial injury of a serious magnitude and high equity that moves the conscience of the court has not been made out by Andhra Pradesh justifying grant of injunction.

“In light of the above, we hold that Andhra Pradesh is not entitled to the reliefs, as prayed for, in the suit,” a bench of justices RM Lodha, TS Thakur and AR Dave told.

However, the bench constituted a three-member supervisory committee having one representative from the Central Water Commission (CWC) and one representative each from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, with CWC representative being the chairman of the committee.

The committee has been tasked with supervising the operation of the Babhali barrage and to ensure Maharashtra maintains storage capacity of 2.74 TMC feet of water out of the allocation of 60 TMC feet given to the state for new projects under an agreement of October 6, 1975, between the two states.

Further, the bench said that the committee will look that “the gates of Babhali barrage remain lifted during the monsoon season, i.e, July 1 to October 28 and there is no obstruction to the natural flow of Godavari river during monsoon season below the three dams, Paithan, Siddheswar and Nizamsagar, towards Pochampad dam”.

The committee has to also ensure that “During the non- monsoon season i.e., from October 29 till the end of June next year, the quantity of water which Maharashtra utilises for Babhali barrage does not exceed 2.74 TMC feet of which only 0.6 TMC feet forms the common submergence of Pochampad reservoir and Babhali barrage and Maharashtra does not periodically utilise 2.74 TMC feet from time to time.”

64-year-old father gets custody of surrogate child

In Jaipur a family court has allowed a 64-year-old surrogate father to retain the custody of a six-year-old child. The custody of the child was being claimed by the surrogate mother.

The order was passed on a petition filed by one K K Singh, a 64-year-old entrepreneur who got a child born out of surrogacy in 2006 form a surrogate mother who was his own office staff. The child was born in Mumbai and the child was handed over to him by the surrogate mother. It was given out in the petition filed by Singh that the surrogate mother became greedy and later sought custody of the child.

The surrogate mother approached State Child Rights Commission and also the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). The commission, taking note of the grievance of the surrogate mother, directed that the child be given to her. In order to comply the order of the commission, chairman, CWC, Ram Prakash Bairwa asked the police to get hold of the child and produce his father and the surrogate child on January 16 before the committee.

“We made a written complaint against the misuse of power by the CWC to the additional chief secretary, social justice department as both the commission and the CWC chairman misused their power on the custody of a minor as it can be decided only by a family court or a district judge under the law. The petition was also moved before the family court which has granted a stay order and the custody of the child will now be with father,” said Abhinav Sharma, counsel for petitioner.

The family court judge, Devendra Joshi in his order observed: “The child rights commission and the CWC are entitled to look into the rights of a child who is left stray, or is a runaway child, or a child in need of care and protection but it cannot disturb custody of child who is being brought up well. We, therefore, direct that the chairman, CWC and child rights commission will not undertake any action to disturb the custody of the surrogate child till further orders.”



Juvenile justice system ineffective: Enforcement agencies

India’s juvenile justice system has not been effective in safeguarding the rights of half a million street children in the capital, according to various enforcement agencies.

This situation exists despite implementation of the landmark Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection of Children) in 2000. Representatives of concerned agencies met on Saturday to take stock of the state of the juvenile justice system in the capital.

Neera Malik, the state Child Welfare Committee(CWC) chairperson at Nirmal Chhaya(West Delhi) juvenile home complex, said, “23 years ago there were 45000 children on the capital’s streets. Now there are as many as 5 lakh and their condition has not improved at all.”

The major problem in the rehabilitation of the children is the failure to address the root causes of the plight of these children – lack of employment for the parents and education facilities for children.

Kamla Lekhwani, the CWC-chairperson at Rohini (north Delhi), said that “most of the street children usually come from dysfunctional or abusive families. In such cases, just sending them back home, is not the solution without addressing the family’s issues.”

Lekhwani said that such children often returned back to the streets and malpractices such as substance abuse and theft also made their rehabilitation difficult.

Returning to the streets, these children often turn theft and substance abuse. Lekhwani said that the abuse of whitener fluid as an intoxicant was rampant among these children.

The CWC-chairperson from south Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar, Raj Mangal Prasad, informed that even the rehabilitation homes often even tend to reject the street children, blaming their substance abuse as the reason for refusing to take them in.

The discussion was a part of 2-day workshop organised by child rights organisations Childhood Enhancement Through Training and Action (CHETNA) and Consortium for Street Children, to examine the successes and failures of the Juvenile Justice Act.

The act provides a framework for the protection, treatment and rehabilitation of children under the juvenile justice system and is considered a very progressive legislation. Its implementation, however, remains a matter of serious concern.

A video film was also screened, where street children voiced the issues they faced, such as physical and sexual abuse, child labour and human trafficking.

According to Sanjay Gupta, the director of CHETNA, as many as 80 percent children at the workshop identified the government as the biggest stakeholder and demanded that it should work towards their betterment.

Senior officials from Delhi Police were also present at the meeting and presented their perspectives.

Speaking on restoring these children to their families, Deputy Commissioner of Police Shibesh Singh said that “the basic issue that drives children out of their homes is deprivation, and since facilities at the NGOs and childrens’ homes are usually better than those at their own homes, the children often leave home again and return to these institutions.”

Pointing to the lack of personnel for the Special Juvenile Protection Units(SJPU) of the Delhi Police as a reason for reduced effectiveness, Inspector S.S Malhan called for having personnel dedicated to handling juvenile issues.

Court slams panel over girl’s adoption

The Child Welfare Commission’s (CWC) decision to recommend a girl for adoption without the permission of her biological father was termed as a “gross human rights violation”, by a Delhi court.

Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau’s remarks came while hearing a petition moved by rape convict Bhola who complained that the decision to recommend his biological daughter for adoption was illegal.

The child was born to a 17-year-old girl after she spent a couple of years with Bhola in south Delhi’s Srinivaspuri.

“Great injustice has been done with Bhola, the biological father and natural guardian of baby ‘J’, and I shudder to think of the consequences and the storm which is arising in the life of Baby ‘J’ just because of this one irresponsible hasty decision,” the court said in its recent order.

The mother of the child was 15-year-old when she met Bhola. Both of them started living as husband and wife, until the child was born.

Later the mother realised that she had committed a mistake running away from her family and called her parents to take her back. She surrendered the child to the CWC.

Without tracing the father of the child, the baby was recommended for adoption under the category of “abandoned/destitute”.

Bhola later came to know about it but could not take any steps since he was sent to jail, facing trial in the case related to rape of the child’s mother.

“The poor in our country have as much right as do the rich and there cannot be two sets of laws,” the court said.Bhola was convicted in April but was set free as court has awarded him punishment set off by the detention undergone during trial. The court observed that the adoption of the child had already taken place so, it would send the case to the higher court for directions.