Udupi, Aug 27, 2016: Udupi district with its long-standing record of favourable sex ratio, high literacy rate, good education system, low dropout rate, low child marriages, coverage of immunisation and almost 95% institutional deliveries and so on is called child-friendly. Yet, in contrast to such positive features, Childline 1098 is not functioning in the district.
Udupi district has initiated child protection mechanisms like District Child Protection Unit (DCPU), Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), Special Juvenile Police Units (SJPU), adoption centres, girls’ homes, as well as children’s homes. Yet, the non-existence of the free helpline for children, i.e., Childline 1098, is a major setback, especially for children in need of care and protection.
Following the meeting held in the aftermath of the tragedy that killed 8 innocent lives near Muwadi in Trasi on June 21 in a collision between a Maruti Omni and a private bus, the district administration has embarked upon initiating all necessary measures in the direction of protecting the children. Among these, setting up of Childline 1098 was to be given priority - however, no action has been taken since the meeting.
Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer Priyanka Mary Francis told DH that the proposal is pending with the central government, as the district is unable to offer the service of NGOs that are capable enough to meet the requirements of the guidelines put forth by the central government.
Childline 1098 has to be managed by an NGO that is capable of fulfilling the mandatory criteria of the central government. A survey held in the district revealed a lack of NGOs that meet the expectations. The survey recommended two NGOs, yet, there are apprehensions that these NGOs are competent. Mary Francis said that the district has to manage with the Childline available in Mangaluru.
As per the study conducted by the Public Health Department of Manipal University, there are 2,53,159 students studying in 2,506 schools - pre-primary, primary, secondary, PUC and special schools - in the district. There are 411 children severely malnourished and 6,711 children moderately malnourished among the 77,176 children recorded in the Department of Women and Child Welfare. There are 175 orphans (who have lost both the parents), 559 do not have their fathers and 1,971 children lost their mothers. Altogether 2,705 children do not have either of their parents or have lost both parents.
When contacted, Ida D’Souza, senior professor in Public Health Department, said that as per the data available with the Juvenile Justice Board in the last three years, the total cases handled are 45. Among them, 43 are male and two female children. Most of the cases are related to theft, kidnap and fights. The observation home has been closed down for lack of infrastructure as well as very low number of rehabilitative cases. The 23 police stations in Udupi district have nominated just two CWOs (Police Child Welfare Officers). Many of the CWOs are not even aware of the child protection mechanisms that exist in Udupi district.
"According to the criminal record in the last 3 years, there is a massive increase in sexual atrocities against children. Many a time, most of the culprits are close associates of children, and hence the cases remain unattended to and later hidden making the victim negatively targeted. In this backdrop, there is an urgent need for Childline," Mary Francis added.