By Manali Joshi
The Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), is a centrally sponsored scheme, with the primary aim of establishing a safety net of dedicated and quality personnel, structures and services for child protection across the country. The target group involves children in need of care and protection, children in conflict with the law and children in contact with the law, like victims and witnesses of any incident.
Importance of ICPS
The Scheme aims at improving the well-being of children in difficult circumstances, as well as to the reduction of vulnerabilities to situations and actions that lead to abuse, neglect, exploitation, abandonment and separation of children. These will be achieved by improving access to and quality of child protection services, raising public awareness about the reality of child rights, situation and protection in India and by establishing functioning structures at all government levels for delivery of statutory services for alleviating the lives of children in need.
The curious case of Jammu and Kashmir
In March 2013, four years after the Centre implemented the ICPS, the state amended the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act for the welfare of juveniles and had still not granted the proposal for ICPS specifically. The amended Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children), 2013, provided a detailed roadmap for the protection of vulnerable children, in line with the central Act that was first passed in 1986 and later amended in 2000 and 2006. The other initiatives to be taken by the state were, to set up magistrate-headed juvenile justice boards, observation homes and sanction child protection officers for the welfare of children in each district, as announced by, the then Jammu and Kashmir Minister of Social Welfare, Sakina Ittoo.
However, none of these steps was implemented. Moreover, in August 2014, Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, informed the Rajya Sabha that no proposal had been received from Jammu and Kashmir for the release of grants under the ICPS in the last six years as well.
According to a report, the central government until December 2016, has sanctioned INR 2141.50 crore under the ICPS. Under the scheme, Jammu and Kashmir had been approved 90% of central funding. However, the state did not secure any funding for six years. In the year 2015-16 finally INR 1.56 crore was allocated, the least funding allotted to any state. Thus, while states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Madhya Pradesh are seen to be making the most of the scheme, Jammu and Kashmir has nothing to show.
The need for child protection
The latest survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare revealed that Jammu and Kashmir is home to 2.4 lakh orphans. In addition to it, a study conducted by late Bashir Ahmad Dabla discovered that at least 48% of these children faced economic hardships and another 22% faced psychological issues after the death of their parents. It forced them to leave school and earn a living for their family. The study also found that 87 orphans, from the sample, did not receive any monetary help from anywhere, including the government, NGOs or relatives and were in an absolutely helpless state.
Hence the present findings clearly bring forth the dire need of implementation of ICPS in the state of J&K, to not just provide monetary support but also to help the young minds from getting victimized from criminal activities. A 2014 study by Save the Children, a UK-based NGO, revealed that at least 37% of total 2.4 lakh orphans of J&K were victims of armed conflict. Some young minds, with nobody to help, were observed to be susceptible towards committing criminal activities.
To help such children, the state does not even have juvenile justice boards. The accused minors are tried in normal courts itself and are lodged in jails. According to Chief Justice Badar Durez Ahmad, juveniles are kept in prolonged custody and beaten in jails before they are shifted to observation homes. In recent times, specifically, after 2016 minors have also been taken in custody for an alleged charge under the Public Safety Act, a controversial law under which an accused can be jailed without trial for six months. Considering all these matters, Jammu and Kashmir is the state that needs the ICPS the most because of the high probability of juveniles in conflict with the law and in need of care and protection.
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