Children in distress have found Salem district a safer place in Tamil Nadu; not that it sans criminal activities but because of its effective and well-coordinated official intervention.

The district has emerged the leader in Tamil Nadu and also 5th in India in the implementation of the Integrated Child Protection Programme (ICPP), through which the wronged children have been rescued and integrated into the mainstream, said Hans Raj Verma, Principal Secretary to Tamil Nadu Government and Commissioner of Labour, who was here recently to review its functioning.

The ICPP, part of National Child Labour Project (NCLP), was launched in 2009 in the district with the formation of Child Protection Task Forces and appointment of Block Coordinators.

A two-phase District Convergent Action Plan has been formulated of which the first phase has been undertaken in 8 blocks in the district.

All government agencies including peer groups that are active for child rights have been roped in to create awareness and for a combined effort to carry on preventive measures against child trafficking, child marriages, child abuse, female foeticide and regularisation of Homes etc.

The well co-ordinated result is quite successful.

Task Forces have so far prevented 12 child marriages in Pusampalli, Karukka lvadi, Kannakurichi in Salem, Ayothiapattinam, Tirumalaigiri and Attur in the district in just 14 months.

The awareness we have created among the rural people, especially women, has led to the prevention of these child marriages, which otherwise would have been solemnised, says a senior official.

A child which was found abandoned in the Government Medical College Hospital in Salem was entrusted with Life Line Trust, an NGO that takes care of the orphaned new born.

A Block Coordinator in Yercaud had rescued five orphaned girl children and all of them had been admitted in a school running under the SSA.

A total of 3,138 child labourers have so far been rescued and mainstreamed of which 91 are studying in various Engineering, Arts and Science and Polytechnic colleges today.

Farmers of hybrid cotton in Attur and Talavasal pockets have been told not to employ children. These farmers till recently have found girl children from the adjoining districts of Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram and Vellore as source of cheap labourers to segregate pollen from the hybrid cotton plants.

‘Child-friendly'

The strong army of 108 Para Teachers who taught ABL in 68 Government and Panchayat Union Schools in Tribal localities has showed a sharp decline in the drop out ratio.

Block Coordinators have carried out surveys on ‘WATSAN' (Water and Sanitation) facilities in 603 schools, 19 PHCs, 45 Homes, 53 Government Tribal Residential Schools and seven Residential Block Centres and submitted the same to respective departments to make them ‘child-friendly' in all aspects and for further action.