Warning against passing the children's bill in haste, rights groups in New Delhi pointed to atrocities and dismal statistics stacked against the young of the country.
Only a miniscule 0.25 per cent of the GDP was allocated for child protection measures, said a rights activist at a meet in New Delhi on Wednesday on 'missing children in India' called by the Centre for Social Research, an NGO engaged in social development activities.
Ministry officials, members of UNICEF and city-based NGOs like Prayas and Butterfly that work for children's rights, and police officials also attended the meeting, organised in the backdrop of the Nithari killings.
"Children have equal rights only on paper," claimed an NGO member, who added that the gruesome murders of an estimated 40 children in Nithari on the outskirts of the capital should spur the central government into efforts for a law against such offences.
Though the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 is in force, most states are yet to set up the required committees that the act ordains. Section 63 of the Act refers to the creation of juvenile police units to look into such cases.
According to a research and advocacy officer of the Lawyers' Collective, Tenzing Choesang, such police units are not functional.
"There are many loopholes in the children's bill, which is yet to be implemented. For instance, broad terms like 'social development' have been used frequently and the word trafficking has not been defined," she said.
"We should not let the bill pass in a haste and must look into these pitfalls immediately," she added.
Razia Ismail Abbasi, convenor of the India Alliance for Child Rights, said the Integrated Child Protection Scheme, with its good intentions but without any realistic provisions for prevention (of cruelty), rescue or recovery, may be introduced in the five-year plan soon.
"A special session of Parliament is around the corner and it is reportedly going to consider a new budget and look at the details of national commitments of the 11th plan. Will it discuss Nithari and the incompetence involved? Or will it just discuss which political party is to be blamed for the mess?" she asked.
But with initiatives like the women and child development ministry's to set up a missing-children website starting with West Bengal, there seems to be some hope for the future, added another NGO official.