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Child Protection Law Remains On Paper

A team of the Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights failed to rescue 50 vulnerable children from the Bodgeshwar temple fair in Mapusa as local police failed to provide security to the raiding team.The rescue operation was planned by the commission after receiving a complaint from a civil society group and ascertaining that the children were vulnerable to abuse. The children were found to be selling various items, performing acrobatics or begging at the fair and living in unhygienic conditions. It is a pity that the police could not help in their rescue despite the fact that the Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the apex body of child protection, was engaged in the operation. The denial of help could make people wonder whether the local policemen were hand in glove with traffickers and exploiters. The police top brass owe an answer to the indifference and reluctance in providing necessary help.

That the police were indifferent to the cause of child protection could be made out from the fact that the children were engaged in begging, selling and performing acrobatics when police were present at the fair. The police had set up a booth to help the organizers and people visiting the fair but failed to act when exploitation of children was going on right under their nose. Goa was in the forefront to frame a law for child protection. The state law, which was enacted in 2003, became a model for other states, but the existence of the law has failed to curb child abuse and exploitation in the state itself. The concerned government agencies and police have not been vigorously enforcing the law. In 2016 the government admitted on the floor of the Assembly that around 40 children go missing each year in the state. The fate of most of the missing children is never known. There are children engaged in begging or selling wares in different parts of the state, the government agencies and police have not made efforts to stop it and provide shelter to them. It is time that the authorities wake up and take prompt action to give a better life to vulnerable children.

In the latest case at the Bodgeshwar temple fair the raiding team was made to sit at the Mapusa police station for three hours and still no help was provided to them by the police. What prevented the Mapusa police from acting promptly and helping the team? Nobody knows who these children were, and who had made them do begging, selling and performing acrobatics. Some of the children might have been kidnapped. If police had helped the raiding team of the Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, a thorough probe could have been conducted to find out the facts and take suitable action against traffickers, exploiters and abusers. The police could have learnt more about how the illegal and inhuman exploitation of children goes on. The police indifference made a mockery of the state law for protection of children. The act calls for the state to ensure children are protected against any form of abuse, exploitation and neglect. Will the Director General of Police punish the police officials of Mapusa for neglect of duty?

The Goa Human Right Commission had recently issued guidelines on tracing missing persons and asked the state government to set up an anti-human trafficking unit exclusively to deal with human trafficking cases as it considered the issue serious. The anti-human trafficking unit was to be made responsible for collecting, collating and analysing data on kidnapping and abduction of people in the state. The top officers of the state government agencies including police need not be told that merely enacting a law to protect children would be of no use. The law has to be enforced in letter and spirit. There have been reports of abuse and neglect of children in shelter homes too. The state government cannot allow the situation to worsen. It should compel the concerned officials to enforce the law. The police and officials of the department of women and child development have to play a proactive role in protection of children. They must work constantly to make sure vulnerable children are not abused in the streets or in protective homes. The children who are exploited and abused are usually from impoverished families. Traffickers and exploiters take advantage of their penury to take their children away from them to abuse them for their own profit. Prevention of such exploitation and abuse should be a part of the government policy of poverty alleviation.

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