They are all between the ages of 15 and 19. They study in local schools and have no experience in handling arms and ammunition. They haven’t been trained in VIP security and have nothing more than peanuts and chocolates on them. But they have all been drafted into the security apparatus of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is visiting Santiniketan on Saturday.
Unbelievable? Take a look at the photograph below — an innocent face peering out of the thick foliage. He is barely 15 and has been asked by the police to be on the lookout for terrorists or alert the cops should anyone dare to climb the tree and take a shot from there.
Incredible as all this may sound, the Birbhum police have gone ahead and recruited local kids to police the area, full of trees, where the PM will land in a helicopter on Saturday. Of course, the cops have been generous enough to pay these children Rs 120 per day and they will be on duty till the PM leaves the same evening.
What exactly are these teens expected to do? Jayanta Das, a Class X student, told HT: “The police asked us to climb the tall trees and perch there from 10 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. and again from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. (10-and-a-half hours) on Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. We have been asked to keep a close watch on any movement in the trees. We have also been asked to shake the trees from time to time to ensure all is fine.”
Have they received any kind of training? “No,” said S.K. Saju, another recruit. “All we were told is to climb the trees and keep an eye on movement around us.”
HT deliberately did not contact Birbhum SP L.N. Meena for his comments. All the children sported security badges issued by the SP’s office. We wanted the world to see what a mockery of policing this is and the type of security that is being given to the country’s most important man. But HT did contact a police officer in charge of the PM’s Santiniketan visit and this is what he said: “Yes, no training was given. But what training are you talking of? They only have to climb trees and keep watch.”
Doesn’t this amount to child abuse? After all, the police are putting the lives of these children at risk should an unforeseen incident happen. Rajiv Halder, additional director of Child in Need Institute (CINI), said: “It is a gross violation of child rights. For one, many of the children are below 18. The cops can be prosecuted under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2006.”
The ridiculous idea has also put the life of the PM at risk. Though the police claimed the children were drafted only after verifying their antecedents, sources told HT this was done hurriedly and in a cursory manner.