Special functions were organized across India including J&K on the occasion of Childrens’ Day on November 14, birth anniversary of Pandit Nehru. In Kashmir, in a few functions organized by the state, the focus was on well establishment of Juvenile Homes.
In most of the Indian states, Juvenile Courts are operating. These special courts are tackling issues related to the minors who are caught on the wrong side of the law implementation. Interestingly, however, these courts are missing in J&K. The screening committee to assess the age, period of detention, and the method of rehabilitation of juveniles is also non-existent. The juvenile home as per standards of modern rehabilitation requirements and standards of living is also missing.
It was after a long battle and debate over this crucial issue, the government did establish a juvenile home in periphery of Srinagar. Though it is an imposing building, the systems in place within the complex are not very different from a jail. It lacks the facilities that would have helped inmates to reform and get rehabilitated.
Kashmir’s child population continued to be in the same situation as that of adult population. Though age keeps them slightly aloof from the major issue confronting the adult population but impacts remain. That is the main problem why children are the worst and the most vulnerable section in the surging destitute population of Kashmir, partly because of the conflict triggering massive socio-economic upheavals.
While the responses from the society and the established systems to the destitutions are half-hearted and partisan, the grave issue is that even basic requirements are ignored. A sizable section of the child population has failed to be in the schools in last few years. This is despite the fact that child education is the most emphasized part of the elementary education and multiple schemes are operational in all states including J&K.
Child labour is another major issue. It is gradually becoming a menace. There are very harsh laws on the statute books to fight this crisis but the reality is that it is on the increase. Earlier the children would clean and clear the dirt in the elite’s kitchen, now middle class manages its shit through child labour.
The crisis is starkly visible in the elite schools where minor, frail and weak kids are seen moving the ‘knowledge’ load of their elder masters. As everybody watches these poor boys and girls escort their ‘little masters’, there has not been any effort on part of the system or the society to intervene.
Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act 1997 is a 14 years old law in the state but it is yet to make an impact. It is expected that the state government, especially the lawmakers would take it serious and make this law improved guidebook to manage the issues that our young population faces. But more urgent, at the same time, is to look towards the more pressing issues: the education, the child labour and their well being beyond the midday meals.