Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The fate of our priceless memoirs

Very recently the priceless belongings of the Father of our Nation were auctioned. While the Ministry of External Affairs "struggled" to "procure" the country's heritages, Vijay Mallya, made their job easy. He bought all the items for a whopping Rs 10 crore (USD 1.8 million).

The whole episode was a complete mockery of the Indian Government. The moment I saw this news item in the Telegraph I was amazed & asked myself "What are bapu's belongings doing with some James Otis guy in New York!!!" Somehow all the priceless items from our country seem to end up in some museum in some other country (Britain or Iran), be it the kohinoor or the peacock throne or the sword of Tipu Sultan.

Gandhi ji's belongings - his trademark round eyeglasses, a pair of worn leather sandals, an inexpensive pocket watch and a simple brass bowl and plate were consigned by Otis, a private American collector who obtained them from the descendants of the Gandhi family to Antiquorum Auctioneers. To add to the humor of the whole episode, the government went about claiming that Mallya took up this cause on their behest which was completely denied by the latter. Mallya said he had, in 2004, bought and brought to India the legendary Sword of Tipu Sultan and this time again he was working from his own consciousness.

Its high time the government acts and prevents such episodes of embarresment in the future.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009



Thursday, March 5, 2009

spooky but true

I have been thinking of writing this up since long. Its a topic that deeply interests me and although more than 5 years have gone by when I heard about it, the account is still fresh in my mind.

Real ghost stories, near death experiences and paranormal activities are something that rouses interest of all quarters. I have come across several forums where people share & discuss their unsual and sometimes spooky experiences. The one that I am going to share here was narrated to me by someone who would never have believed and would have laughed off the whole episode had it not happened to him! This happened with my uncle who went to Hyderabad for an on job training. After he was back I visited him and my aunt and was horrified as they told me about the incredible incident!

Not dragging it further I shall get to the point. My uncle was assigned a room in the guest house of the institute where the training was happening. He went to sleep at night and though he was v ery tired he kept awake and felt uneasy. Suddenly he could smell incense sticks burning and the room seemed to be getting overpowered by someone's presence and smoke. He started to get up and to his surprise he just could not. Someone was holding his ankles in a tight and vicious grip!!!

The strong hold continued for sometime till it got painful and then he made an effort and went out of the room. He also felt some burning sensation on his back. The next morning he discussed it with a colleague who was occupying the adjacent room. The other guy jumped at the elucidation and said that the year before he had been occupying the same room. Something similar had happened to him and on returning home his wife noticed the scar on his feet and burn marks on his back as if someone had touched the skin with a burning incense stick!

On further probe it was found that the guest house was made on the grave of some nizam and probably his mistress was also buried beside him.

I would never have believed such a story but coming from this uncle of mine it felt very very true as he normally he would himself never want to relate himself with something as "silly"!

Integrated Child Protection Scheme: the roll out challenges in Jharkhand

ICPS: what makes it different
st week the Government of India approved the launch of a comprehensive centrally sponsored 'Integrated Child Protection Scheme' (ICPS) aimed at providing safe and secure environment for the children of the country. This is a welcome move as the existing child protection schemes are marred by poor planning and coordination, low coverage, poor Infrastructure, inadequate human resources and service gaps. This is also true in the context of the state of Jharkhand where the Child Rights Report which is a part of the UN Convention of Child Rights has not yet been tabled. Besides this the State Plan of Action for children has also not been drawn.

Child protection incorporates both prevention and care as well as recovery and rehabilitation aspects. The National Plan of Action for Children 2005 is the basis for planning for children in the Eleventh Plan which places Development of the child at the centre. The Central Government has provided an outlay of Rs.1073 crores during the XI Plan period towards implementation of this scheme.
The launched ICPS brings together multiple vertical schemes under one comprehensive child protection programme and integrates interventions for protecting children and preventing harm. It does not see child protection as the exclusive responsibility of the Ministry of Women & Child Development but stresses that other sectors have vital roles to play.
The scheme targets children in need of care and protection, children in conflict with law & any other vulnerable child like those belonging to BPL families or infected/affected by HIV/AIDS. The ICPS is based on the cardinal principles of “protection of child rights” and “best interests of the child”. Some of the key principles of ICPS are reducing child vulnerability, strengthening the family and promoting non-institutional care, establishing standards for care and protection and building capacities of the concerned personnel.

ICPS: the roll out challenges in Jharkhand
When one looks at the key strategies of the ICPS and relates it to the existing scenario and infrastructure in Jharkhand little convergence can be observed. An analysis of the key programme components on which the scheme’s success rests can throw more light on to it.

THE CHILD LINE: This 24 hour emergency phone outreach service for children in need of care and protection links them to long- term services for rehabilitation & comes with a toll free number 1098. The Government of India established this service in 2001 and it is presently operational in 74 cities of the country. In Jharkhand the Xavier Institute of Social Service, Ranchi is the nodal organization for Child Line in collaboration and support from a local NGO Samadhan, Ranchi. Samadhan reports getting around 35-40 cases of runaway, orphan & trafficked children every month. Dr N. K. Tah, Director, Samadhan indicated that more cooperation from the state telecom department was required for smoothening the service. The organization faced problems in getting the line installed and the erratic connection forces them to pool resources through other phone lines which may not be toll free and covered under the outreach activities to advertise for the service.


C SPECIAL HOME 1 50 10-15

As is evident from the above statistics all the children’s and observation homes are packed to capacity and the state is badly in need of new ones who have not yet been brought in the purview of law. 20 organizations have applied for running new orphanages.

Drop in shelters: A vast majority of children, with or without parental support, generally end up at traffic intersections, railways stations, streets, etc. where they are vulnerable to physical, sexual, emotional as well as economic exploitation. For these children the ICPS would facilitate setting up of drop-in shelters largely in urban areas. Such centers shall provide space for children where they can play and indulge in creative activities through music, dance, drama, yoga & meditation, computers, indoor and outdoor games, etc. and use their time productively.
At present there is no concept of such centres in Ranchi. Samadhan, the local NGO running the Child Line is forced to give shelter to runaway or other children in their office before restoring them. This is primarily because of the complete absence of shelter homes and those being run by local NGOs like Karuna and Aanchal Shishu Ashram are packed to capacity.

Juveline homes: The State Government has formed Juvenile Justice Board, Child Welfare Committee, and Special Police.
Status of Boards and committees meant for children in conflict with law Number of Districts
2005-06 2006-07 2007-08
Number of Juvenile Justice Boards 7 7 21
Number of Child Welfare Committees 2 2 11
Number of districts having special police for dealing with Juveniles 22 22 22

However the CWC in the state of Jharkhand is still not functional as it has not received any formal training on its roles and responsibilities.
Promotion of family based non-institutional care through adoption: It is an accepted fact that the child develops best in his or her own family environment and thus adoption to an indigenous setting is ideal for his or her growth and development. The Department of Social Welfare, Gov. of Jharkhand has registered Missionaries of Charity as agency for adoption.
In Jharkhand State total number of registered orphanages is seven and total numbers of orphan children are 420. Central Adoption resource Agency, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India and Department of Women and Child Development are making guideline for extending the adoption rights by for extending the adoption rights by revising Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.

After care for children from juveline homes: the ICPS proposes to provide funds to respective District Child Protection Unit (DPU) to identify suitable organizations to take up this responsibility. Such organizations shall formulate an after-care programme for every child and ensure meeting basic needs of the child, education and vocational training, counselling and life skills training and assistance with job placement/entrepreneurship development.

CONCLUSION: the Way Ahead
The scheme’s approach of bringing together multiple vertical schemes under one comprehensive child protection programme is indeed laudable. However the deprived and vulnerable children of the state of Jharkhand are badly in need of concrete implementation of these well thought of plans. The 4 basic rights of a child need to be restored to them viz. Survival, Protection, Development & Child Participation through appropriate measures.

For instance, to ensure better child survival the new births should be registered and the community made aware of the services available for them so that they are mobilized to access the same. A state wide mapping exercise to track all vulnerable children in need of care and protection and the resources that can be channelized for them is an immediate need with respect to the Right for Protection. Children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS need special care and support and must be mainstreamed to all programmes launched under the scheme. Fast track courts for speedy disposal of cases of juveniles and increasing the number of observation and shelter homes specially for girls in the need of the hour. Disabled children also need to be provided with education and mainstreaming. The State wing of the NCERT needs to be made functional to impart quality education and the vocations offered in homes should be more specialized and linked to profit making industries.
To ensure participation and equip children in influencing issues affecting their lives, by speaking out or taking action in partnership with adults, the foremost step should be to scale up the Bal Sansad (Children’s Parliament) to the entire state. The State Plan of Action for children which is not yet underway needs to involve children while making the same.

Last but not the least the humble request to the state and the concerned departments is that the prime duty of the state is to protect the each and every child and provide a safe and secure environment.