What really happened to vulnerable children during the pandemic | In Focus podcast

Last week, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights told the Supreme Court that close to 1.5 lakh children in the country are in need of care and protection after losing at least one of their parents to COVID-19 and other diseases during the pandemic period, while over 10,000 children have lost both parents.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns not only pushed thousands of Indians into poverty, it also made services that generally safeguard children, unavailable in large parts of the country, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. Thousands of migrant workers returned to their villages, schools have been shut for the better part of two years, and families, desperate to survive, have gotten into the clutches of money-lenders, which makes them easy prey for traffickers.

In July last year, the Union Home Ministry issued guidelines for the urgent setting up of Anti Human Trafficking Units or AHTUs, and asked States to upgrade the infrastructure of existing ones. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, there are 696 functional AHTUs and 20 States/Union Territories have achieved their target of setting up AHTUs in all districts.

In the meantime, children have been rescued from trains and buses, from workplaces across the country, from sexual exploitation and child marriage in the thousands by child rights organisations. Childline, a helpline for children in distress, received 1,92,000 distress calls between March and August 2020, most to do with cases of child labour.

And yet NCRB's data from AHTUs recorded only 1,714 cases of human trafficking in 2020. What really happened to vulnerable children during the pandemic? How do the AHTUs work and are they effective? What happens to rescued children and how long does it take for the rehabilitation process to work? And what are the urgent gaps the government needs to fill to protect children in our country from being trafficked?

Guest: Dhananjay Tingal, executive director, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a movement for the protection of children that works with government agencies and policy-makers to strengthen the system

Host: Zubeda Hamid

Edited by Reenu Cyriac

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2022 12:13:52 am | https://www.thehindu.com/podcast/what-really-happened-to-vulnerable-children-during-the-pandemic-in-focus-podcast/article38371191.ece