Funds crunch limits sittings of child welfare committees

The Karnataka Integrated Child Protection Society has sent out official directions to Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) to reduce the number of sittings per month, citing funds shortage. This at a time when the number of cases of child rights violation is increasing in the State. 

Not only this, it has also asked members to limit their working hours between 10 am and 1.30 pm, according to chairpersons of CWCs. The society has been constituted by the government for monitoring the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS).

As per regulations under ICPS, the CWCs are obliged to conduct a minimum of 12 sittings per month to address these cases. The CWCs are district-level bodies which play a pivotal role in addressing the issues pertaining to Children in Need of Care and Protection.

For instance, cases pertaining to problems faced by children in school, migrant children or in cases of child marriage are addressed by these committees. The Juvenile Justice (Care And Protection Of Children) Act, 2000, states that these committees “shall have the final authority to dispose of cases for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of children and to provide for their basic needs and protection of human rights”.  

The circular sent out by the society on June 2 drastically limits the committees’ work. 

It stated, “As per ICPS, for one sitting of a CWC, Rs 1,000 has to be allocated. A CWC is required to conduct 12 sittings per month. At present, eight to nine sittings are being held based on the number of cases. However, funds are being allocated by the government only for six sittings”. Hence, the CWCs have been asked to limit the number to five to six per month. 

The CWC meetings are held in the offices of the Department of Women and Child Welfare and in earlier directions limiting their work timings, they have been told that a sitting can be delayed till 4 pm, only in case of exceptional circumstances. However, CWCs in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Belagavi and Dharwad are exempted from this new rule.

Members feel that these decisions by the society are arbitrary and could cripple the monitoring bodies. 

Recently, the Ballari CWC had to deal with 48 cases of child rights violations on a single day. Over the past three months, 350 complaints have been received, said H C Raghavendra, chairperson, CWC, Ballari. 

“We get nine to 12 cases per day. In our district, there are several cases of sexual abuse and missing children. We feel that we are discriminated against as certain districts have been spared from it. Even if we want to give maximum service to people, the department seems to be limiting it”. 

If the case pertains to child marriage, for instance, or any other complaint related to Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act, it takes a minimum of one hour to resolve it, said Shekar Goud, chairperson of Koppal CWC.

 “The fixed working hours is an added problem. It will be difficult for members to stop the counselling process in between, just because the work timings are over. We have to stay back until 8 pm or 9 pm, till the case is resolved. Also, in rural areas, people cannot afford to travel back and forth shelling out transport fare.” 

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