In a country where nuclear families are becoming an urban norm, day care centres/crèches form an important support structure for working couples as well as single parents. So important is this structure that many companies are even offering crèche services to their employees to retain talent and ensure gender diversity in their workforce.
The basic requirement of such institutions, among other infrastructural ones, is that they should keep a child safe. But often many crèches fail to do that bare but absolutely non-negotiable minimum.
Here’s an example: In a horrendous incident in Ghaziabad on Tuesday, a 62-year-old man was arrested for allegedly raping a minor girl in a crèche run by his daughter-in-law.
If the accused and those who run the crèche are responsible for the trauma and torture that the minor has had to go through, the State is equally responsible for allowing such ‘mom-and-pop’ crèches and play schools to mushroom across the country, the non-implementation of the 2013 guidelines for play schools and creches, and failing to keep a hawk eye on even the ones that are registered to ensure that they are following the rules.
The result: Anyone with an extra room and a maid to help out is opening a crèche and a play school these days, and parents bereft of any family support structure are sending their children to these faux crèches implicitly trusting the owners to take care of their wards the way they would do themselves.
In 2013, the women and child development ministry finalised the Early Childhood Care and Education Policy that not only made registration and accreditation of such centres mandatory but for the first time also spelt out the kind of curriculum and learning tools children should be provided with.
But nothing came out of it and unregulated crèches, as the one in Ghaziabad where the recent incident took place, are cashing in on this governmental oversight and endangering children. Way back in 1993, the central government had even started a financial assistance programme for setting up crèches in rural areas; this scheme seems to have fallen flat.
The states must take express action and launch a drive without delay to close down these unregulated crèches and check whether the registered ones are following the rules.
Such action could put many parents without any back-up plan in trouble, but they should also realise that by leaving their children in incompetent hands, they are exposing them to several kinds of dangers.