‘Duty Bearers Must Be Aware Of Legal Provisions For Child Protection’: Surendra Kumar
With a view to bolster child protection in Assam, Surendra Kumar IGP (CID) recently wrote a book titled ‘Role of Duty Bearers in Child Protection’. The book describes the roles and responsibilities of various duty bearers working in the field of child protection. It was launched by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal at an event in Guwahati on July 20, 2019. The book also elaborately explains the provisions of 18 important laws which currently deal with protection of children. Kumar’s book will be circulated nationwide to help the cause of child protection in Assam and other states.
G Plus caught up with the author to know his motivation behind writing the book, the appropriate approach towards combating such crimes and protecting children from cybercrime. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
What prompted you to write the book?
The book was conceptualised during the Fourth Round Regional Consultation of North Eastern States and Sikkim on ‘Effective Implementation of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children Act, 2015) with focus on Integrated Child Protection Services, organised by Supreme Court’s Juvenile Justice Committee and Gauhati High Court’s Juvenile Justice Committee in collaboration with State Child Protection Society and UNICEF, Assam. A brochure on role of duty bearers in child protection, written by me, was circulated to the participants in the consultation. The brochure was liked by the honourable judges of the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Supreme Court and the suggestion came from them to develop the brochure into a handbook. This is how I started writing this book.
Your book aims at improving the awareness level of duty bearers. How important is this aspect in your view?
We have a very sound legal framework for child protection in India. The existing Acts have been amended and new legislation has taken place to make the legal framework even more stringent and child-friendly. It is also equally important for the duty bearers responsible for implementing these laws to be fully aware of these provisions for maximum effect at the ground level.
I would like to draw a parallel in this regard. We may have very good medicines meant for various ailments, but if the doctors are not aware of the medicines available then they may not prescribe such medicines. This is also true for law enforcement.
I have observed that the level of awareness about their roles and responsibilities among some of the officers of various departments who are entrusted with the duty of protection of children, needs to be improved.
This book is not only meant for the police, but also for several other departments including Education Department, Health Department, Social Welfare Department and Labour Department.
Please elaborate on the important aspects of the book.
The book consists of 17 chapters and sub chapters. One chapter deals with the role of district magistrates (DMs) and executive magistrates as they have a number of responsibilities mandated by law in the area of child protection.
Ten sub chapters cover the role of police and various aspects of child protection like child labour, child sexual abuse, child trafficking, child marriage and cybercrimes against children have been prominently covered.
One chapter each is devoted to other departments. The book has been designed in such a way that it can be sub-divided into eight booklets department wise. However, it is expected that the functionaries of one department should not only be aware of his or her own role but should also be reasonably aware of the role of other stakeholders.
A number of infographics (29) have been provided in order to improve clarity of the content. The book is not priced and would be distributed for free.
What is your future plan for this book?
For wider penetration, an e-book would be launched very soon.
It is also our plan to translate the book, particularly the chapters relating to police, in Assamese language for distribution to all police stations of Assam. The copies of the book would be distributed to organisations, institutions and individuals working in the field of child protection. Revised editions would be released at regular intervals in order to capture all the amendments, new enactments, new initiatives and High Court/ Supreme Court orders relating to child protection which might be taking place after publication of the previous edition. This would ensure that the content of the book remains up to date.
Since you have a lot of experience in child protection, what should be the appropriate approach towards combating crimes against children?
Prevention of crime; protection and assistance to the victims and investigation of the cases and prosecution of the offenders are important aspects in child protection. All these aspects need to be addressed in consistent, coordinated and sustained basis as a part of strategy. The interest of the child has to be at the centre of all the efforts and child-friendly approach needs to be adopted by all the stakeholders.
Awareness leads to prevention of crime and therefore it deserves due attention, particularly awareness among children, parents, teachers and citizens.
The government; NGOs; civil society organisations; training and research institutions; media; academia; corporate and business houses; and citizens in general all have to join hands to protect the children and to make the society safe for them.
Children are vulnerable to cybercrime, what needs to be done in your view to protect them from this menace?
These days children, particularly adolescents, are increasingly using smart phones and many have access to social media.
While these platforms offer a number of advantages for children, the dangers are many. The need of the hour is to sensitise and make children aware of such threats in cyber space. The parents and teachers also need to be fully aware of the risks posed by use of smart phones and computers by children. The cyber activity of the children needs to be monitored while giving due regard to their freedom and privacy. Cyber bullying, grooming, cyber stalking, pornography depicting children, cyber defamation, online radicalization etc are some of the types of cybercrime against children. Any instance of victimization should be reported to police. Also, the government of India has launched Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children (CCPWC) scheme. Complaints may be lodged online by citizens regarding online circulation of contents relating to rape/ gang-rape and child pornography on the portal www.cyberpolice.gov.in