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A meaningful commission

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  • Shaji John K
    ========[indiatogether]========== http://www.indiatogether.org/2003/jul/hlt-sanitmart.htm A meaningful commission The much-delayed National Children s
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 17, 2003
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      ========[indiatogether]==========

      http://www.indiatogether.org/2003/jul/hlt-sanitmart.htm

      A meaningful commission

      The much-delayed National Children's Commission should take shape
      with proper consultation of children's groups and their allies, says
      Nandana Reddy

      July 2003 - The Government of India announced the setting up of the
      National Children's Commission in January 2001. This was reiterated
      by the Union HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi at the United Nations
      General Assembly Special Session on Children (UNGASS) held between
      May 8-10, 2002. However the composition of the commission, its
      structure, and role have yet to be finalized.

      A National Children's Commission (NCC) could play an extremely
      significant role in assisting the children of our country to realise
      their rights enshrined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child
      (CRC) to which, India is a signatory. India became a signatory to the
      Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1992. The National
      Commission is supposedly being set up within the framework and
      mandate of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This mandate is
      based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
      1989 (UNCRC), ratified by 191 countries.

      The CRC views children not as recipients of services but as holders
      of rights. It upholds children's right to self-determination and it
      recognises children's right to form associations (get organised) and
      participate in all processes where decisions regarding their lives
      are being made. This includes decision-making processes within their
      own homes and communities, as well as national and international
      policy discourses. However, the National Children's Commission Bill,
      which should be an embodiment of the CRC, falls short of these
      principles.

      The structure of the NCC should be a bottom up one - starting at the
      level of the panchayat and moving up to the national level. With
      linkages established between panchayats, districts and states and the
      systems made accountable to children, an effective way to impact
      policy matters will be in place.

      Hence, it is the need of the hour that an effective public discourse
      on this issue be set into motion as the Government of India proposes
      to place the National Children's Commission Bill before the
      parliament during this year's Monsoon session. Unfortunately there is
      a lack of meaningful consultative processes preceding the discussion
      of the Bill in Parliament, which is a matter of concern. The
      Government should take immediate note of this and consider the
      lacunae in the proposed Bill. The structure of the NCC should be a
      bottom up one - starting at the level of the panchayat and moving up
      to the national level. With linkages established between Panchayats,
      districts and states and the systems made accountable to children, an
      effective way to impact policy matters will be in place.

      First, the Government of India has not held nation-wide consultations
      with children regarding the National Children's Commission. This
      violates the very spirit of setting up a Commission. A large number
      of Non Governmental Organisations too have little or no information
      regarding the NCC. The government should conduct systematic
      consultations with children throughout India regarding their views
      about a Children's Commission, which should be decentralised. The GoI
      should ensure that the views and opinions of a cross-section of
      children (girls, working children, children with disabilities,
      children from tribal communities, children affected by HIV etc.) is
      sought.

      During the consultations with children, the government should note
      that several children's organisations themselves, such as the Bhima
      Sangha and children councils exist in the country. One such
      children's organisation is the National Movement of Working Children,
      whose opinions and suggestions are fully endorsed by the Concerned
      for Working Children, a Bangalore-based children's rights and
      advocacy group. The NMWC suggest that the structure of the NCC should
      be a bottom up one - starting at the level of the panchayat and
      moving up to the national level. With linkages established between
      Panchayats, districts and states and the systems made accountable to
      children, an effective way to impact policy matters will be in place.

      The NCC should be easily accessible to children and should have in-
      built mechanisms like toll-free phone lines and the presence of
      children's friends. It is noteworthy to mention several countries in
      Europe (Norway, Sweden) have set up systems such as the ombudsperson,
      whose experiences and work methodology could be a model for India to
      study and emulate, based on their relevance to the present context.
      These systems are autonomous in nature and impact the national
      policies of their respective countries.

      Another major area of concern in setting up the Commission is its
      constitution. The foremost criterion is that children should be in
      the forefront with organised representation from the working, school
      going and disabled segments. According to NMWC, the adult members of
      the Commission should be those who are capable of understanding
      children and their rights. Legal experts, doctors, counsellors and
      government officials should also be part of this Commission. The
      Commission should include representatives of the National Movement of
      Working Children. It should have representatives of Children's
      Panchayats. Being child-friendly, the members of the NCC should have
      a record of having worked with children in a proactive manner. These
      will go a long way toward making the commission effective.

      The location of the NCC is also important. It should be in each state
      and located such that it is easily accessible to children. Keeping
      the criteria required to set up a Commission for children at the
      national level in mind, it is imperative that the government's
      approach must be in tandem with the interests of the child. As seen
      in the past, the lackadaisical manner in which Commissions have been
      set up should be avoided; this cannot be treated as the setting up of
      yet another 'Commission'.

      Nandana Reddy
      July 2003

      Nandana Reddy is the founding Executive Director of CWC and is
      presently its Director for Development
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