Chandigarh is a small city with a big heart. The Chandigarh Administration has always put children first and its concern for them is evident in urban planning, infrastructure, education facilities and opportunities for their all-round growth. Nowhere else in India do you have the vast green spaces that we still cherish and preserve here, despite stiff pressures from a rapidly growing population. Our schools are spacious, airy and safe, and our play-areas well - equipped and imaginatively designed.

We are concerned about the safety and welfare of Chandigarh children, and not just when they come to school. Children are particularly vulnerable to danger and abuse because of their innocent and trusting nature. Child abuse is universal and widely prevalent - it is just not as widely reported or adequately addressed, as it should be. With 19% of the word’s children living in India, four out of every ten Indians are children. When they are educated, healthy and happy, they are the country’s greatest human resource.

Sadly, recent surveys report that over 50% of children have experienced physical abuse of different kinds, and a staggering number of them have encountered abuse right in their homes. In fact, half of all reported cases of child abuse were committed by people known to the child or regarded by him or her as being responsible and trustworthy. Shocking but true, over 70% of abused children have never reported the matter to anybody. They silently carry these scars throughout their lives and suffer traumas of unknown magnitude.

Coming Together

Policies and legislation abound, but the true test of our sensitivity is, how effectively are we able to protect our children? We are clear that protection of child rights and prevention of abuse or violence against children require all citizens to come together. Vigilant and conscious citizens, aware and well – equipped children and a concerned and effective response mechanism are the three planks on which child protection rests. Usually, intervention occurs only after abuse is reported. Therefore, prevention is crucial. Parents, teachers and neighborhood watch groups need to work in tandem with law enforcement agencies and rehabilitation professionals to save innocent lives.

The Chandigarh Administration will serve as an umbrella organization and act as an enabler for all groups active in child protection programmes. To combat child abuse, we will function as the catalyst and provide support and networking opportunities to agencies active in this area. The child in need is someone we must reach out to hence we will demonstrate our capacity to care and our commitment to rehabilitate victims through sustained campaigns and systematic interventions.

Chandigarh Action Plan

After three rounds of consultation with professionals, NGO’s and other interest groups, we have put in place a plan for action on these lines.

SENSITIZATION OF TEACHERS AND PRINCIPALS

Through a series of workshops and interactive sessions, we plan to reach out to teachers and principals to help make schools safer. We shall focus on critical issues like corporal punishment, handling disobedience or delinquency, peer abuse, fights among pupils, classroom indiscipline, academic performance and campus safety. Recognizing a victim or a sufferer, Counseling him, providing relief and organizing therapy we believe that all teachers should be equipped to do this.

COUNSELING IN SCHOOLS

Many schools already offer Counseling on campus. The Chandigarh Administration proposes to enlist a panel of qualified counselors to visit its schools and offer counseling services to students, parents and teachers.

SPEAK OUT

A fortnightly Speak Out ! Session will be held in every school where children can give free vent to their innermost thoughts and fears. Teachers will facilitate this process and step back and listen. Later they will give feedback to principals and parents on the issues raised by children. We aim to move away from a culture of enforced silence to a responsible expression of opinion including dissent and disappointment.

AWARENESS PROGRAMMES FOR CHILDREN

We will run programmes for them on child protection, safety strategies and ‘how to…………’ themes: ‘how to tackle abuse, report it, seek help, etc.’. Puppet shows, theatre and discussion formats will be used.

 

 

‘SAFE CHILD’ DROP – BOXES

Every school will install a Drop Box for suggestions, feed back and tip-offs. The Principal or designated social worker will open it and act on the contents.

COMMUNICATING WITH PARENTS

Schools will be writing to parents asking them to be aware of the potential of abuse and plug and security gaps in the child’s schedule. They will raise issues like:

  • Is the child being left along with an unreliable helper?
  • Have the antecedents of caregivers been verified?
  • Have parents checked out the schools bus routes or the school bus stop?
  • Parents must make sudden, unexpected visits to the house when the care given least expects it, or to the hobby class venue or sports centre.
  • Parents must carefully consider the implications of leaving the child alone with visitors, house guests or even family members and recognize that the potential for abuse exists everywhere.
  • Parents must install home safety devices to prevent break-ins and intrusions.
  • Parents must foster healthy neighbourhood links.
  • Are they watching out for behavioural changes in the child?
  • Are parents themselves pressurizing the child over scholastic performance or other issues?

HELPINE

The Chandigarh Police runs a Helpline 1091 to cater to distress calls. Children and vigilant citizens can report child abuse or other crimes on this Helpline. We will shortly have mobile numbers manned by our volunteers who are drawn from various professions administration, police, lawyers, doctors, psychologists, social workers and educators, to serve as an instant support system and form a rapid response team

TREATMENT PROTOCOL

Response to Information: Assuming a call is made to our helpline or information is received by any other means, the following steps will follow:

  • The concerned Police Station will be alerted.
  • Police accompanied by expert volunteers will proceed to the victim’s location and take stock.
  • Spot relief will be provided.
  • If need be, the victim will be escorted away from the location for a medical check up and psychological evaluation.
  • The Government Multi-Specialty Hospital, Sector 16 will make the medical examination possible under the direct and sensitive supervision of the Medical Superintendent.
  • A volunteer who will serve as a mother figure will be with the victim for support and strength.
  • If any provisions of law are attracted, the police would handle these aspects with care, sensitivity and alacrity.

Evaluation: The next day, an evaluation team comprising a police officer, therapist, social worker and a mother figure will do a detailed assessment of the victim’s conditions and outline a specialized treatment plan for him or her.

Therapy: If the victim has to be removed form his or her location, shelter can be offered at the Panchayat Bhawan facility round the clock. A team of attendants will be in place here. Therapy and counselling sessions will continue at this centre. Counselling will be geared towards eliminating stigma and rehabilitation of the victim.

Rehabilitation: After the victim is found to be fit, he or she can be sent back home if the conditions are appropriate or else a resettlement plan will have to be worked out for him or her which again will be the responsibility of the multi- disciplinary evaluation team. Apart from scientific methods of counselling we propose to use occupational and recreational therapy as well. If the victim’s age and situation so warrant we will include vocational guidance and explore employment avenues for him or her.

Multi Agency Team: The Chandigarh Administration will support a multi - agency team comprising doctors, psychologist, social worker, police personnel, lawyers, therapists and citizens with time on their hands and concern in their hearts, to work closely with the victim at every stage.

REHABILITATION FACILITY

A rehab-cum-therapy centre is being set up under this Programme. The location will be central and the ambience pleasant. A fully equipped, specialized Rehabilitation Facility is also being planned in the medium-term.

MOTHERS AGAINST CHILD ABUSE

Every school can have a Mother’s Club that frequently meets to discuss child safety issues. This forum will be facilitated by an Administration volunteer. The Club will pass on candid feedback to the Principal about teachers indulging in unsavory practices, corporal punishment or verbal abuse or share information about children’s problems.

COUNCILLORS AGAINST CHILD ABUSE

The Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh will hold awareness sessions for councillors and ward committee members on child protection. A safe neighbourhood is the fulcrum of overall civic development. Councillors and Residents Welfare Groups can take up issues of better street lighting, secure roads, safe parks and playgrounds, strange goings on in particular house or premises, suspicious movements of servants or strangers and so on.

CHILD FRIENDLY POLICE STATIONS

Every police official will be trained to handle cases involving children with extra sensitivity. An annual workshop will be held for police personnel on this Women and Child Help Desks have now been set up in every Police Station. They will respond to distress calls without loss of precious time. Strong volunteer support to the police will enable it to produce better results.

PARENT VOLUNTEER A MUST

Incidents of abuse have been heard of during school picnic and excursions. We will ask all institutions and the NCC to seek a parent volunteer to accompany a group tour or a camp. The volunteer’s expenses will be borne by the institution.

CHILD SAFE CRÈCHES

We have anganwadis and balwadis in the slums and basties. But there is a need for a safe, brightly done up and well equipped crèches for working parents to leave their children in. We plan to begin with the southern sectors where more nuclear families and latchkey children can be found. A string of crèches-perhaps a public – private partnership model – is being considered. It can be a self financing venture. Schools with extra space can make a start by running a crèche on their premises. Government Offices with more than 300 employees and private offices with more than 100 employees can consider providing a crèche on the premises, as it will improve employee productivity.

DAY CARE IN RESIDENTIAL AREAS

With the changing socio – economic and ethno- demographic profile of Chandigarh grandparents are les likely to be able to provide child care and the number of latchkey children is on the rise. With today’s trend of ‘arrested families’ a single child or a ‘lonely only’ is more vulnerable to abuse than a group of siblings or even a paid of children left behind at home.

We have permitted regulated operation of paying guest facilities, and even a bed-n-breakfast scheme for tourist (both operating out of residential sites). We are now considering permission to day care centres to operate out of 10 marla houses (upto 20 children) after police verification and site inspection. This will reduce the anxiety of working parents.

CHILD SAFETY IN SLUMS AND COLONIES, AND WORKING CHILDREN

These children are particularly vulnerable and need specialized programmes. Some steps planned:

  • Head count of young children in these areas.
  • Health camps for children.
  • Better street lighting and sanitation.
  • Street plays and activities steered by the NCC, NSs and volunteer groups.
  • More schools in slums.
  • Outreach camps by all Departments.

MALNUTRITION AND NEGLECT

Malnutrition, poor or gender-skewed access to medical care and parental neglect are grave causes of childhood trauma can actually retard the prosperity of an entire nation. The Health, Education, Social Welfare and Engineering Department of the Administration will work on strategies to fight these scourges. Some area for immediate attention:

  • Better coverage of compulsory immunization.
  • Fight against anaemia.
  • Prevention health.
  • Hygiene and personal care.
  • Support and guidance for dysfunctional and troubled families.
  • Infrastructure as an enabler for the physically and mentally challenged.
  • Equal access and better coverage under all existing programmes.

CAMPAIGN AGAINST VERBAL ABUSE

We can recall instances of ridicule or scorn being heaped on us by an insensitive teacher, angry parent or the school bully. Such memories give us an uncomfortable feeling even decades after. So let us put ourselves in the place of the child encountering verbal abuse now. Today we know that verbal assaults, humiliating or insulting speech, aggressive body language and threats by authority figures constitute abuse, and can severely disfigure the psyche of a child. We must highlights the message: ‘Don’t taunt a child or ridicule him. Learn to correct a child through appropriate words and gestures’ Frequent displays of impatience, irritation and intolerance disturb a child no end.

Signing Off....

The task is huge, never-ending and all – encompassing. It calls for 24x7 vigil and huge reserves of commitment. Our goal is to create so much awareness that the secrecy shrouding the problem, which is the most sinister aspect of child abuse, is lifted. Everyone – parent, child, teacher or volunteer- must be equipped to deal with an abuse situation. This programme is not for the faint hearted or the casually inclined, so volunteer selection and participation is vital. Write to us with your thoughts and idea, share your comments, spare your free time for Chandigarh’s children. If nothing, just be an aware and vigilant parent and do your duty as a citizen. Report abuse, speak out and help prevent further damage. At stake is the safety of a child, the progress of a city and the development of the nation. Please join us in this endeavour to make Chandigarh India’s first child safe city.

Important Contacts

Adviser to the Administrator, Chandigarh Administration
adviser-chd AT nic.in
Tel : +91 172 2740154, 2740164
  Home Secretary, Chandigarh Administration
hs-chd AT nic.in
Tel : +91 172 2740008, 2740216
   

 

Finance Secretary, Chandigarh Administration
fs-chd AT nic.in
Tel +91 172 2740017
  Special Secretary Finance, Chandigarh Administration
ssf-chd AT nic.in
Tel: +91 172 2740045
     
Director Public Instructions, Chandigarh Administration
dpi-chd AT nic.in
Tel: +91 172 2740411
  Director Social Welfare,
Chandigarh Administration
Tel: +91 172 2700372
     
Director Health Services, UT Chandigarh
Tel: +91 172 2700372
   

Helpline

Chandigarh Police Women & Child Helpline   1091
     
Chandigarh’s child Protection Programme   99150-23456
     
Child Line, PGI   1098
     
GMCH-32    2665253-59, 2665545-49
     
GMSH-16   2549523-29
     
Women and Child Support Unit
Chandigarh Police, UT Chandigarh
  +91 – 94173 00004