Illogical guidelines

Illogical guidelines

Anxious to be seen to be doing something in response to public demands for action following the recent gang-rape of a child in a private school in Bangalore, the government has issued safety guidelines galore that do little to address public concerns over the safety of children.

Several sets of guidelines have been issued. According to the police guidelines, school buses should fix GPS and CCTV cameras, drivers should not be allowed to mingle with children and vigilance officers should be appointed to keep an eye on movement of people within the school. Another set of guidelines issued by the education department requires all schools to register details of their teaching and non-teaching staff with the police.

Not surprisingly, the guidelines issued by multiple government departments have caused confusion, even anger among school authorities and parents as none of them have consulted the school managements, parents committees or citizens’ groups in framing the rules. Had they done so, they would have drawn on ideas and expertise from various sections of society.

The guidelines framed would have reflected public and parental concerns and been more implementable and affordable. In the absence of such consultation, what has emerged is a hastily put together, uncoordinated set of guidelines that are largely unfeasible and unlikely to protect our children.

The police guidelines raise several questions.  Schools are required to install GPS and CCTV in their buses. This sounds impressive but is hardly effective in protecting children since many children travel by vans and auto-rickshaws to school. Is the government going to impose this on autos as well? Can non-elite schools afford this technology?

Do they and the police stations have the personnel to monitor CCTV footage in real time? What about government schools? Is the government going to follow these guidelines in the schools it runs? The various guidelines’ one-size-fits-all approach shows that little thought went into framing them.

A swift response from the government to issues of public concern -- especially those that impact children’s safety -- is important. But what is needed too is a thoughtful, sensitive and feasible programme of action. Sadly, the government acted only hastily and issued orders without thinking through their efficacy. It is still not too late.

It must reach out to all stakeholders to draw on their ideas and diverse expertise before putting out fresh and more meaningful guidelines.