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Tackling juvenile delinquency

With the number of reported juvenile offenders across the country increasing at an alarming rate, NT KURIOCITY interacts with youngsters, counsellors, parents and teachers to find out what, in their opinion, leads to juvenile crimes and what can be done to educate and sensitise youth and curb this tendency

MARIA FERNANDES

Among the accused in the Nirbhaya case that will be hanged next month, one of them is said to have been a victim at the time of the crime. And indeed juvenile delinquency is becoming a problem in India in recent times. In fact, according to NCRB (National Crimes Records Bureua) data, 6,645 cases of crimes were committed by juveniles in 19 metropolitan cities, of which Delhi was the hotspot with 2,368 cases reported in 2016 itself.

And the reasons for this rise could be many. “Problems in the family, stress, poverty, changing lifestyles and thought processes are some of the reasons why children below the age of 18 find it hard to cope with various situations,” says psychologist Godeliva Rodrigues e Gomes, adding that the entire social fabric has also changed with time. “Right from the joint family system to the manner in which children are brought up, there is a marked difference. The values and morals that children were taught earlier are no longer given any importance and hence we find them going astray and ending up saying and doing things that leave us speechless,” she adds.

The home environment in particular is a major influence in juvenile delinquency states counselling psychologist Taqdees Sayed. “When children see domestic violence at home, they tend to react in the same way within and outside the home. It can also lead to alcohol and substance abuse,” she states.

And indeed, family is the primary contributor in defining the overall personality of a child; it is where they learn the basic social skills and moral values. With both parents working especially in the metros and cities, the quality and quantity of time spent with children thus is bare minimum. “Add to this the fact that when children come home sometimes there is no one there. They become extremely lonely and as they have no one there to tell them what is wrong or right, some end up doing the wrong things,” says mother of two teenagers Asha (name changed). Citing an example of her neighbour’s daughter, she discloses how after the girl comes back from college very often she brings back her friends and has drinking parties. “I see them carrying out empty beer cartons before the parents return. The parents are unaware what their daughter is up to and the last time I hinted at it, they asked me not to interfere.”

It is not just neglect but over protectiveness and carelessness by parents can also cause harm says 19-year old Ismail Khan. “Some parents are well aware what their children are doing but do not say anything for fear of antagonising them. They are afraid their children will retaliate or even do themselves harm.”

Besides the home environment that is changing, school and college life too is not what it was. Fierce competition, less friendships, more virtual relationships and unprecedented often negative peer pressure are other reasons why there is a disconnect in the minds of children and youngsters. “Peers play an all-time important role in the life of teenagers. What their friends say and do can change the minds of these susceptible youngsters,” says Rodrigues e Gomes. “So often to prove to their friends that they are cool, they end up behaving in deviant ways.”

Eighteen-year old Adithi Sharma meanwhile believes that technology and media also play an important role in this respect. “When teenagers do not get the right amount of love and affection at home, they divert their mind with technology such as WhatsApp, Facebook and the like which can influence them negatively,” she says. Chavvi Soni ,an 18-year old also points out to poor or no education and easily-available pornography as a possible catalyst for the heinous assaults and rapes committed by teenage boys. “Social media has taken over the lives of this generation in a way that cannot be measured. This exposure I would think is a significant reason for youngsters wanting to explore, experiment and initiate themselves into something that ends up becoming criminal,” states associate professor Sunita Mesquita.

Programmes like Savdhan India , Crime Patrol and others in this genre too are culprits, say many youngsters. According to them instead of sensitising the audience against crimes, these programmes are tools that sensationalise the crimes. “Haven’t we heard of many cases where juveniles have committed crimes after watching these programmes?” asks 22-year old Siddhant Garde. “Not only is the method to commit the crime shown explicitly but it also acts as a challenge to behave likewise and not get caught.” In his opinion these programmes should be banned and education and awareness programmes should be introduced everywhere. “This will help youngsters understand that crime is not a shortcut to get what you want,” he adds.

Poverty is also named as the root cause of many crimes. “According to me, this where the problem lies. When they know that their parents cannot afford some of the things they want, children take to theft and other petty acts which further down the road leads to bigger and serious crimes,” says 19-year old Eeshan Bagchi.

Sayed further adds that if children are physically or sexually molested then invariably this leads to a vicious cycle and the abused becomes the abuser. Agreeing with her wholeheartedly, 20-year old Harsh Kumar adds, “I believe the violent crimes against people and property committed by such juveniles are mostly due to the anger and frustration within them.”

The system and laws are also to blame, says Aradh Khan, 21. “Our laws are not strict enough. Look at the Nirbhaya case, the hanging of the culprits is still pending. Unless our laws change and instil fear in the hearts and minds of would-be offenders, the problem will stay the same or just get worse.”

The list of reasons and causes is long but what is the solution? According to Tanya Furtado, 20, there is no one solution. She further goes on to list counselling, rehabilitation and increased effectiveness of reformation process as options that can help. While Adam George, 21, is all for education and awareness programmes besides the need to take steps to decrease the poverty in the country.

Assistant professor Kedarnath Tadkode meanwhile is all for accountability. “Actions need to have consequences and gender sensitisation needs to be worked on with enforced vigour,” he says.

However, Harsh says it has to be a collaborated effort from all quarters. “From parents and family, to teachers and the governing bodies, we all need to work together.”

 “Parents and teachers play a very crucial role in this respect and need to monitor what their wards are up to,” agrees Sayed. “If they detect any criminal tendencies then help has to be sought at the earliest. Proper counselling and required rehabilitation should be given on priority basis. Prevention is always better than cure.”

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