Manipur. IMPHAL, August 27: The good news is that the State Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child is likely to be formed shortly in the State. The bad news is that it might be a still born baby, judging by the manner in which the entire matter is being handled.
To start with, the State Government has reluctantly agreed to form the commission thanks to a directive from the Gauhati High Court and a continuous stream of queries in this regard from the Union Home Ministry.
The abhorrence which Messrs O Ibobi and Co at Heinoumakhong have for any independent State Commission, which is empowered to pull up erring government officials for any violation of the rights of the citizens, is well known.
It may be mentioned here that the Human Rights Commission which was described as the poor man’s court when it was initially formed was downgraded by inducting incompetent members during its second avatar and subsequently kept in limbo with the Government refusing to form the commission for the third term. Likewise the post of the Chairperson of the Right to Information Commission is still lying vacant for nearly a year now.To start with the news that has trickled out so far is that while as envisaged in the Central Act the Social Welfare Minister Meerabai Devi will be the chairman of the selection committee of the Chairperson and the six members of the Commission.
However what has raised eyebrows is the composition and of other two members of this committee. The grapevine has it that both the Secretary Social Welfare Department and the Director of the Social Welfare will comprise of the other two.
This raised serious questions as to how a commission who will be charged with looking after the activities of the Social Welfare Department and pull up erring officials have its members selected by the same officials who are supposed to be answerable to them.
Ideally it should comprise of besides the Minister herself a representative of the Governor of the State and that of the Chief Justice of the High Court. By all accounts it appears that the formation of this Commission is being looked as an internal family matter of the Social Welfare Department.
The second point to be noted is the pay and allowances of the Chairman and the Members.
It appears that the Social Welfare Department has proposed to the Government to pay Rs.10,000 per month to the chairperson and Rs.8,000 to the members keeping in mind that the chairperson and members of the State Women’s Commission enjoys that amount and further since it is also handled by the Social Welfare Department as the nodal department, the two have to be kept on par. Now this raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the chairperson and the members to be functioning with a salary less than that of their drivers and peons thanks to the implementation of the 6th Pay Commission recommendations in the State.
To function effectively and to give time whole heartedly ideally, the pay and allowances of the Chairperson should be equal to that of the Chief Secretary of the State and the members should be paid equivalent to that of a secretary to the State Government.
The Commission would be required to look into the implementation of the Right to Education Act.
The Rules of the Commission framed by the State Government also finds no mention about the relation which it will be having with the Child Welfare Committees and the Juvenile Justice Boards. Ideally these two bodies formed for the welfare of the child should also come under the ambit of the Commission or else there is the danger of them working in cross purpose. A clear relationship should be established and adhered to and a meaningful protocol devised.
It is taken for granted that the appointments of the chairperson and members of the Commission will be done politically but favoritism should take second place and persons with proven track record and understanding of the rights of the child and human rights and having a strong sense of democracy, secularism, equality and justice should be selected to make the Commission have a meaningful existence.
Then the Government should ensure that this Commission have horizontal and vertical levels of inter and intra departmental support and cooperation from the Police, Education and Labor Departments and special note should be taken that it is going to exist in a conflict zone where many child soldiers caught by the police are recorded as adults so that they can be confined in jails. This would also require a separate special research wing to look and study the dynamics of children caught in a conflict zone.
Earlier experiences have proven that the Government forms Commissions not because it cares for the welfare for the people but just for tokenism. The Human Rights Commission when it was first formed was denied any support staff but the resilience of the members who were selected then carried it through to make a mark. The same should not be expected from the Child Rights Commission and a full time Chairman with a just Rs.10,000 as his monthly salary would also have to become a part time contractor to meet his ends. That would be a tragedy indeed. Will the Government kindly look into the questions raised before it advertises for the posts please, as it concerns the rights of the child our future generation.