The number of complaints of child rights violations recorded by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has shot up by nearly six times in the past year, due to more outreach, NCPCR Chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said.

In 2019-20, until December-end, the commission recorded up to 30,000 complaints as against nearly 5,000 registered in the previous year, Kanoongo told BusinessLine. Most of these complaints were under Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, that of child marriage, denial of Right to Education (RTE), child labour, and inaccessibility of healthcare.

Of the 30,000 complaints, a maximum of 22,000 were generated this year by mobile benches of the commission which travelled to 52 out of 117 aspirational districts, identified by NITI Aayog on the basis of low social and economic indicators. The maximum number of complaints, close to 10,000, relate to denial of school admissions which is a violation of RTE, followed by violations of JJ Act, at about 6,000,. close to 1,000 each of POCSO and child marriage, and upto 4,000 about denial of health rights.

“We will have to go to the children and ask them about their problems. The children cannot come to NCPCR headquarters in Delhi and register complaints on their own,” said Kanoongo, explaining the rationale behind holding district-wise benches. “We start preparing for the hearing a month in advance. Our team reaches the district three days in advance to raise awareness on why it is important to register complaints. We sensitise school teachers, panchayats and anganwadi workers on how to communicate with children, concepts such as good touch, bad touch, and so on, so they are capable of lodging complaints,” he said.

Yashwant Jain, Member, NCPCR said that the hearings were important because it gives voice to children who are harassed. “For instance, when we conducted a hearing in a school in Noida recently, a girl spoke up against harassment perpetrated by the school principal’s son on the premises. She spoke up amidst a crowd of 200 to 300 children,” Jain said.

Keeping up the pressure

Jain also said that NCPCR has a quick response cell to stop instances of child marriage. “At times, teenage boys call to complain if the girl they love is getting married off to someone else and is under-aged. There was an instance where a coaching class teacher had run away with his under aged student and married her. We helped in solving the case. At NCPCR, we pressurise the police until they take action and follow up each case till it’s resolved,” he said.

Kanoongo recounted an instance in Khandawa in Jharkhand which is extremely backward. “The village watchman or kotwal , announced the bench from a blaring handheld loudspeaker. He made announcements across the village for many days. We received 1,600 complaints from the single sitting of the bench that day,” said Kanoongo.

While in 2018-19, NCPCR had received ₹18 crore in the budget, in 2019-20, it received ₹19 crore. “We are utilising all our budget in reaching out, inspections, conducting hearings and so on,” said Kanoongo.