“Focus on accessibility of the Child Rights Commission to the people of Maharashtra”

After being virtually non-functional throughout the pandemic due to vacancies, the Maharashtra Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (MCPCR) is set to establish a Maharashtra Bal-Snehi (child-friendly) with Susieben Shah as panel chair. Almost a month into his new charge, Shah spoke to Pallavi Smart about his plan of action. Excerpts from an interview:

Please share some of your plans to reach ‘Bal Snehi Maharashtra’.

On the occasion of the World Day Against Child Labor, June 12, the commission plans to launch a website and app. People from all walks of life are now digitally active and we need to use this new platform to create awareness. A WhatsApp number will also be provided. In addition, posters will be affixed in each school and police station addressing children. The idea is to make children aware of their rights, of the existence of a commission to seek justice and of information on the steps to follow. Considering that police stations are the first point of contact in case of violation of children’s rights, the aim is to make them child-friendly.
Other initiatives include the creation of a prom diary, like any other school diary, which will give children information about their rights and available forums for help. Apart from this, a booklet will be published for all to know the acts available for the protection of children’s rights. People who want to guarantee the rights of the child can help as “Balmitra” or “Balrakshak”.

What will be the focus while creating awareness?

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Emphasis will be on how the Commission on the Rights of the Child as an institution could be accessible to the people of Maharashtra. And also, rapid trials and resolutions, once a complaint or issue reaches the Commission. This will help to show that the Commission is effective. Once we have raised awareness of the various acts and standards protecting children’s rights, it is only natural to provide an effective mechanism for dealing with grievances. There is extensive protection afforded to children with the acts available. Under this, many positive steps need to be taken to ensure a Bal-Snehi Maharashtra. It is my job, and that of my team at the Commission, to ensure that every child in Maharashtra feels protected and is healthy, literate and safe.

The MCPCR lacks an effective presence at the district level. What are the other challenges of the panel, in your opinion?

There is a serious flaw in the mechanism. In some places we have children’s homes which also serve as hearing places for children’s rights committees. We are in discussions with the government on this. The Minister of Women and Child Development, Yashomati Thakur, assured us that the department will soon ensure that there is a place in each district where the child protection committee can hold hearings. Having a dedicated office will not only give them prestige but also power.

Another major challenge facing the MCPCR is its reach. We have already prepared an action plan to work on this by designing an awareness program. We also plan to have transparent collaborations with NGOs working in the areas of child protection. NGOs have a broad community reach, dedicated talent to work, and even funds.

After Covid, what are the pressing issues that require the Commission’s attention?

The two most pressing issues are child labor and child marriage. I will not deny that it did not exist before. But come Covid it has really gotten worse in the districts of Maharashtra. Through our child rights protection committees, we must develop an action program that will have a deterrent effect. Broad and sweeping powers are given to the commission by statute and we are a quasi-judicial body. I intend to use it (the power) to the maximum to ensure the protection of our children by preparing an action plan that will help to take action on the spot in the event of violation of rights in child labor cases. children and child marriage. Compensation has been granted to children who have lost their parents during the Covid and we will ensure an effective mechanism for the proper implementation of this scheme.

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