Child rights body, Delhi govt tussle on ‘Desh ke Mentors’ programme
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has written to the Delhi government seeking suspension of its ongoing ‘Desh Ka Mentors’ programme for school students, citing concerns over children being exposed to unknown persons even as the Aam Aadmi Party hit back at the central child rights body saying it was just another attempt by the BJP to “hinder another path-breaking programme”.
In a letter dated January 11, the commission alleged that the programme, under which school students are provided career guidance by eminent citizens, “exposes them to certain dangers”, and asked Delhi government to suspend the programme till the loopholes are “overhauled”.
The ‘Desh Ke Mentors’ programme was launched in October 2021, and is meant to connect 900,000 students of classes 9 to 12 in Delhi government schools with noteworthy citizens who will offer them career and general guidance. The mentors will engage with students over the phone for 10-15 minutes daily to guide them on various aspects of life, the government said while launching the programme.
The commission said that it also wrote to the Delhi chief secretary last month, raising the matter and recieved a response from Delhi government’s directorate of education (DoE) on January 3. The commission alleged that the response was “ineffectual”.
“It has been stated in the response that ‘to protect against violation, mentees are assigned mentors who are from the same gender’, it is imperative to place here that abuse or assault, sexual or otherwise, is not gender biased. Same gender does not necessarily assure safety of any child in any terms,” it said.
Atishi, AAP MLA and chairperson of standing committee on education (Delhi Vidhan Sabha) said the letter yet again betrays the “shallowness” of the BJP and its government machinery. “Putting hindrances in the implementation of a path-breaking scheme like ‘Desh Ke Mentor’ shows the shallowness of the BJP and its government machinery. The BJP has left government schools all over the country to rot. Under the BJP rule in UP the percentage of students aged 11-14 decreased from 56% to 39% in 2019. In Gujarat, there is a shortage of more than 18,000 classrooms and 1700+ government schools have shut down. On the other enrolments are at an all time in Delhi government schools. The students score better than those from private schools.”
The programme could be yet another potential sticking point between the AAP government in Delhi and the BJP-led central government. The two governments are already engaged in a legal tussle over the former’s doorstep delivery of ration scheme.
The commission said the fact that the interactions are done over the phone does not guarantee any protection from crime. “It may be noted that child related crime can be initiated through phone calls as well. For instance, children are susceptible to probable child trafficking through phone calls. Is there any mechanism to prevent origin of cybercrimes and child trafficking?,” the commission said.
The commission also alleged that the personnel involved with the programme “does not seem to be gender sensitised”. “They also seem to lack knowledge about the nuances of child sexual abuse nor are they aware about the laws related to children, including Pocso Act, 2012 and the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015,” it said.
The commission recommendation that the scheme should be suspended immediately till the time “when all the loopholes pertaining to the safety of children are overhauled”, and provide a complaince report with the commission within seven days.
Atishi said that due to the background of Delhi government school students, they lack the support of mentors who could help them take decisions in their life. “This is where the programme comes in and plugs the gap. Educated youth from good colleges, successful entrepreneurs and professionals come together to mentor underprivileged students. Does the BJP not want these students to get guidance? BJP’s biggest fear is to see the poor get empowered and educated and that’s why they’re placing roadblocks in their progress,” she said.