Formed in the aftermath of the December 16 gang rape, the Justice JS Verma Committee was set up to recommend a legal and logistical framework that could help curb such crimes. The committee’s report provided the government with a map which could help the nation become a safer place for its women. But that is only half the story. The 657-page report also stresses on matters of equal concern such as the pitiable state of our juvenile homes, and the increasing number of children who go missing each year.
The Supreme Court recently highlighted how urgent the second problem has become. Having not received a status report on missing children from the Centre and some states, the SC has accused them “of playing the fool with the court” and even threatened to issue non-bailable warrants.
The National Crime Records Bureau estimates that approximately 60,000 children go missing each year. The panel report highlights the possible dangers involved — forced labour, illegal organ trade, sexual abuse and exploitation. But while it prescribes a more vigilant role for the district magistrate, it advocates correction by setting an example of its own.
The report states that the committee had, at its own cost, taken steps to rehabilitate and educate one of the missing children it had interviewed. They had paid her wages, ensured a reintegration with her family and made psychotherapeutic help accessible. The implication seems simple — the State must have the resolve to take small steps that will positively affect bereaved individuals, while also making larger leaps that would benefit a wider society.
Improving the quality of food and counselling, while providing better education and psychotherapy are some of the measures the committee has recommended for the betterment of juvenile homes. Though some might make an emotional case against showing criminal offenders any leniency, the last thing our society needs is someone leaving such a home with an increased sense of embitterment. As an inspection of the report makes clear, for a safer society, we must pay heed to our more inclusive instincts.