Visakhapatnam: The AP State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring, protecting and advocacy of child rights, has been facing an acute staff crunch.
The commission, which has a sanctioned strength of eight members and 21 supporting staff, including the chairperson secretary, is functioning with only three members for over two years.
Despite being an autonomous body on paper as per the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, the commission has not been getting any direct funds, affecting its autonomous functioning. It has to access the annual Rs 60 lakh funds through another account.
Due to all factors, the commission has not been conducting public hearings on Right to Education, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act or the Juvenile Justice Act. Bala Vikas Foundation secretary Narava Prakasa Rao said that the commission had become an appendage due to lack of support from the government.
“Lack of coordination between the implementing agencies, almost non-functional district committees, poor awareness and negligence of service providers are making the child protection policy non-existent,” Mr Prakasa Rao added.
The commission has received about 150 complaints in the last one year related to corporal punishments, sexual abuse, child marriages among others. After bifurcation of the state about two years ago, the state’s top child rights’ panel was also bifurcated, leaving the AP unit with no permanent office or infrastructure.
Even after two years, the condition of the commission has not seen any improvement, which has become a concern for child rights activists. Due to staff shortage, the existing members were forced to do even administrative work. In fact the commission should have a chairperson secretary of a rank not less than a secretary, an IAS officer.
When contacted, commission in-charge chairperson S. Balaraju, admitted to staff shortage and explained how it has been burdening them. “Every Panchayat should form a vigilance committee to prevent child marriages and other child right violations. But right from the state-level officials to Panchayats have no idea about their role and responsibility in implementing the Child Protection Policy. We need to sensitise people regarding child protection protocols,” Mr Balaraju added.