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Mumbai: Child safety laws to be ready by March, experts want changes

Experts have demanded extending the policy to include children between three and six years and for stakeholders — schools and parents — to be included in the policy making.

mumbai Updated: Feb 15, 2017 01:12 IST
Puja Pednekar
CCTV Footage from the daycare facility in Kharghar showed the help assaulting the child.
CCTV Footage from the daycare facility in Kharghar showed the help assaulting the child.(Video screengrab)

Maharashtra’s first policy for safety of children in daycares and crèches will be ready by March, but it has already drawn criticism from experts and parents.

They have demanded extending the policy to include children between three and six years and for stakeholders — schools and parents — to be included in the policy making.

The state commission for women is drafting a policy for the safety of children up to three years of age. Hindustan Times reported on Tuesday that the government decided to frame the policy in the wake of the brutal assault on an 11-month-old girl at a daycare in Kharghar.

Parents of the TreeHouse preschool chain objected that the policy has restricted itself to children below three years.

TreeHouse had shut some of its centres without prior notice in December and later opened them after parents moved the economic offences wing.

“While the Kharghar incident showed the vulnerability of newborns, children from three to six years also need protection,” said Vikas Pandey, a parent who was affected due to the closure of the centres and one of the complainants. “The TreeHouse debacle happened because of lack of government regulation on preschools,” he added.

Parents demanded stricter penalties to be put in place for schools that do not follow the safety guidelines. “Merely having a policy is insufficient. The government needs to supervise the schools and daycare centres to check whether the guidelines are being followed,” said Pandey.

Vijaya Rahatkar, women’s commission chief, said a special panel of child care experts and mahila mandals has been appointed to chalk out the policy. “Mumbai has the maximum number of working women and so thousands of creches have sprung up in the city,” said Rahatkar. “The Kharghar incident has highlighted the need for the safety guidelines.”

Rahatkar added that the policy would be ready within a fortnight, after the panel’s final meeting. “While framing the guidelines, we have drawn from the experiences of the mahila mandals running the creches,” said Rahatkar.

But Mumbai-based think tank, Early Childhood Association (ECA), said stakeholders from branded daycare centres and preschools, too, must be consulted. “The panel doesn’t have any representation from managements of private preschools although the policy will affect them,” said Swati Popat Vats, president of the Podar Education Network and head of ECA.

Safety policy for daycares and creches

The state women’s commission is drawing the policy for safety of children between zero and three years in daycares and creches.

It is based on the Regulatory Guidelines for Private Play Schools, 2017, released by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in January, as well as adding suggestions from its expert panel.

THE SUGGESTIONS

*Daycares and creches shall register with local government agencies (which haven’t been defined)

*Training on handling children will be provided to all employees in such centres

*Preschools will be appointed as mentors to help centres implement the safety guidelines

*Police verification for all employees that they haven’t been convicted under Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, Juvenile Justice Act and Prohibition of Child Labour Act

*No child will be subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment; employees will be punished according to the penalties in the Right to Education Act, 2009

Nine-month-old girl assaulted at Mumbai daycare centre, 2 arrested