A sincere effort was made to encourage the Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) to be more proactive in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) to preserve the best interest of the child by fostering child rights. The duration of survival of the child, right to life, right to inclusion and protection were key indicators the meeting focussed on. This two-day sensitization workshop was organised jointly by the Women Welfare Department, UP Government and SATHI, an organisation working for children in difficult situations. It was attended by newly elected CWC members from 71 districts of UP and Superintendents of government homes that house children in need of care and protection and those in conflict with law.
Experts like Bharati Sharma, former Chairperson CWC New Delhi and BBL Srivastava, Vice Chairman Uttar Raksha Avam Punarvasan Kendra (Protection and Rehabilitation) interacted and shared their experiences on how working of the CWC can be more effective in the state.
The impetus more on preserving the best interest of the child by fostering the rights of the child, the experts at the workshop discussed at length survival of the child, right to life, right to inclusion and protection.
Says Bharati Sharma, social activist and former chairperson CWC, New Delhi, "75% of our work is done through the child welfare committee if the four basic rights of survival, protection, right to life and inclusion, are ensured for a child in distress. But to do that we have to keep in mind the best interest of the child and create a child friendly environment to gain the trust of the child."
Sharing his experience with the participants at the workshop BBL Srivastava, one of the panelists felt, "In cases of child rights the decision by CWCs must be made very clearly, either they agree to institutionalise and provide the child with care and protection or they should not, keeping in mind the circumstances the child is in. But at no cost must they keep a decision pending, if they do the appellant can take the matter to sessions court. Thus the responsibility of the CWC is huge when deciding on which child needs to live in a institution. More so as Juvenile Justice Act encourages that a child’s best interests lie at home with their family."
Apart from the experts speak important rules and sections of the Juvenile Justice Act 2006(Amended) were also discussed. Which included Section 34, sub section 3 dealing in protection of a child, para 68 of section 7 which deals with the competent authority of the court of law who has the power to deal with cases of children and Rule 46 dealing with mental health of institutionalised children etc.
Teeming it a much needed step Rajashekhar, Programme Officer (UP and New Delhi) SATHI concurs, "Awareness among the CWC members about its duties is a must as the focus of these committees on child rights issues is missing. Most members don’t know the rules and most do not have a background of having worked in child rights and protection issues. Making matters worse is the fact that the related NGOs working in this field is not as per the JJ Act and CWC cannot take relevant action as they are not aware of the rights as members as well. Thus we decided to organise this sensitisation workshop for CWC members."
(The author is a senior journalist and writes on development issues through Citizen News Service (CNS). Email: Anjali@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org )