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Better regulation needed to run day care centres

The law should include standards for building and equipment, hygiene and sanitation, kitchen and food, qualification and training of care givers, the ratio of children and care givers, safety protocol to be followed, emergency evacuation procedures, etc. It

columns Updated: Jun 24, 2017 19:44 IST
The law should include standards for building and equipment, hygiene and sanitation, kitchen and food, qualification and training of care givers, the ratio of children and care givers, safety protocol to be followed, emergency evacuation procedures, etc.
The law should include standards for building and equipment, hygiene and sanitation, kitchen and food, qualification and training of care givers, the ratio of children and care givers, safety protocol to be followed, emergency evacuation procedures, etc. (REUTERS/Representative photo)

A series of tragic incidents involving children at day care centres in different parts of the country bring to the fore, the urgent need to regulate these centres.

Last month, a nine-month-old baby’s ring finger was severed at an expensive day care centre in Gurugram, where the child’s working parents had left the baby for the day. The Centre’s explanation was that the child’s finger got accidentally caught in the door of the diaper changing room. But how can that happen if the child had been properly looked after? Around the same time, another day care centre in Kochi came under attack following a shocking video footage (shown on a television channel) of the caretaker beating a two-year-old child. Apparently all the children at the centre were subjected to this brutality.

In April last year, a three-year-old girl’s thumb was amputated, following a severe injury at another expensive Centre, also in Gurugram. Here, it was claimed that another child had closed the door on the girl’s finger — an indicator of lack of close supervision. Again in November last year, the entire nation was shocked by a brutal assault on a nine-month-old baby by a help at a day care centre in Khargar, near Mumbai. Around the same time, a security in-charge at another centre in Kochi was arrested for trying to sexually abuse a two-year-old girl child.

All these incidents highlight the lack of care and professionalism in the way these centres are run and the urgent need to draw up a comprehensive law for their regulation. The law should include standards for building and equipment, hygiene and sanitation, kitchen and food, qualification and training of care givers, the ratio of children and care givers, safety protocol to be followed, emergency evacuation procedures, etc. It should also become mandatory to do a complete background check on those who take care of the children and there should be a requirement of licensing and registration of every crèche or day care centre, on their fulfilling all these standard requirements.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights should take up the issue and draft a model law that can be adopted by all the states. The main focus of the law should be to ensure the safety of children who are left in the care of such centres by working parents.

Many countries around the world have such laws governing these centres. In Australia, for example, the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority monitors the implementation of the National Quality Framework (NQF) across Australia. The NQF includes a national law, regulations, quality standards and operational requirements, besides a national body to monitor grant of approvals, assess and rate the quality of service and monitor and enforce compliance of the legislation.

If we do not follow suit, instances of such injuries and abuse of children left in the care of day care centres will only increase in the coming years.

And till such time the regulatory mechanism is in place, parents need to not only do a thorough background check of these centres, but also have a system of online monitoring of the children. Of course it may not be possible for parents to be constantly watching the child from their workplace, but the fear that they are watching, will certainly force these centres to pay more attention to the quality of care.

And one hopes that there will never be such shocking episodes at any of these places, but in case of such negligence or abuse, parents must make sure that those responsible are held accountable -through a criminal case filed with the police and a complaint for compensation lodged with the consumer court.