Protecting rights of the children Meddling with their natural growth

A few days back the Cabinet took a decision to set up the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the indifference of society as a whole to the plight of children was evidenced by the manner in which this piece of information was reduced to something of a footnote in the media the next day. It was dwarfed by other hot news of the season, such as the Supra State Body mooted by the Union Home Ministry for the Nagas living in the States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, the ongoing economic blockade on account of the demand for Alternative Arrangement etc and while the decision of the Cabinet by itself was noteworthy, in many ways it says something profound that today there is the compelling need to form a body whose primary duty is to ensure that the rights of the child are not violated. Mankind has obviously made great strides in many fields, conquered the seas and the mountains, have tamed the wildest animals, have come out with path breaking technological inventions and the world is today compared to a global village where anyone and any place can be connected with a click of the mouse. However in as much as mankind has been able to harness the forces of nature and utilise them and come out with revolutionary ideas, it has not been able to ensure the protection of its children and herein lies one of the biggest ironies and failures of the adults. Child pornography continues, children continue to be caught in the battle of one upmanship between ideologies and between countries, children continue to be at the receiving end in any conflict situation and while Manipur continues to be caught in a time warp in so far as development and the basic amenities of life are concerned, its children continue to be caught at the cross roads of the conflict between the adults who are poised at the opposing ends of numerous beliefs and issues. Children being dragged out of their classrooms to stage a dharna or a rally in connection with issues of which they have little or no understanding at all, text books snatched from their bags inside their classrooms and being confined to flames in the tussle over an issue between any two opposing sides etc are all instances of exposing the children to all the uglier manifestations of the adult world.

The Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has been thought up precisely on account of the many travails to which our children are needlessly exposed to. Some of the classical understanding of children being exploited include child labour, child pornography, sexual molestation etc but the issue runs much deeper than this. While these are no doubt important issues and need to be dealt with on a priority basis, the setting up of such a Commission will serve its real purpose if it widens its agenda. There is absolutely no justification in making children take part in issues on which they have little or no understanding at all. Given the volatile situation in the State as well as the deep divides that have emerged amongst the adult community, it becomes all that more important not to expose our children to the uglier and seamier side of life. That children of today carry a whole lot of burden would be an understatement and this burden needs to be seen and understood not only in the realm of the heavy school bags they have to carry everyday but also on the expectations that parents and guardians place on them. In fact so pervasive has this culture become that today when a child wields a cricket bat or put on the football boot or takes up the badminton or tennis racket, it is no longer to enjoy a game of the sport, but to do the bidding of his/her parents and try to excel in the discipline which has been chosen by their parents. The intention is understandable but the pressure that is put on the children is an altogether different ball game. Packing off the kids for tuition classes straight after their arrival from school, parents waiting for their children to finish with the coaching classes at any of the coaching centres, are all examples of the rising pressure that our children have to cope with. These examples will not exactly come under the understanding of child rights and the other issues generally associated with children but in one way or the other they all amount to robbing the childhood of children and perhaps this amounts to violating their natural growth process. A Commission for the Protection of Child Rights is fine and needed, but equally needed too is for the elders of society to give a thought to some of the points raised.