In recent times, there have been several reports that female representation in the workforce in India is not adequate and that is hampering the country’s economic growth. Among the several reasons for this situation is the lack of adequate and trustworthy support structures for women with young children, even for those who can afford good crèches and day care centres. Here is what has made us skeptical: Last week, a nine-month-old girl suffered severe head injuries in a brutal assault at a daycare centre at Kharghar, near Mumbai. The owner of the centre and one member of the staff were arrested on Thursday based on CCTV footage, which showed the staff member assaulting the child. The police arrested the owner of the centre and the help, booking them under Sections 325, 34 and 23 of the Indian Penal Code, and produced them before a court, which granted bail to the owner of the facility. The medical report revealed that the assault had been vicious, resulting in bleeding in the girl’s brain. There was also a “suspicious” fracture involving the occipital bone in the midline.
After the incident came to light, the Navi Mumbai police commissioner used his discretionary powers to instruct all child care centres to implement several precautions such as installing CCTV cameras, linking CCTV cameras to computers to digital devices of parents and police certification for the staff within 90 days. These are positive steps but, as always, the trick is in implementing them and keeping a regular check on the schools. Two years ago, there was a huge furore --- rightly so --- over the rape of a young student inside her school premises in Bangalore. There were many suggestions on how to make our schools secure but a spot check will show that we have not moved ahead much.
Experts said children left at day care centres are at risk because the government does not have any regulation over this sector. What’s worse, even teachers and attendants do not have to be qualified for the work. In countries like Britain and the United Arab Emirates, day care staffers need to be qualified in baby-sitting courses. As more and more families become nuclear and women go out to work, there will be a spurt in demand for such day care centres. It is probably about time that standardisation along with a certification process for day care centres based on stringent norms are put in place.