A new drive to prevent violence against kids

Madhur Tankha

NEW DELHI: Bollywood star Anil Kapoor on Thursday kicked off Plan India’s nationwide campaign to prevent all forms of violence against children.

“Learn Without Fear” has been launched in the wake of the Union Women and Child Development Ministry report in 2007 revealing that “69 per cent of children reported physical abuse including corporal punishment and 62 per cent of corporal punishment was in government and municipal schools”.

Grim statistics

Expressing concern over the grim statistics that point to children being subjected to corporal punishment in schools, Mr. Kapoor appealed to all and sundry to protect children from any form of violence in schools that results in absenteeism, dropping out and lack of motivation for academic achievement.

“Plan India’s campaign is an initiative to have violence-free schools across the country. We want to involve not just school teachers but also children and their parents. It is a shame that in the 21st Century we are reiterating that children whether in school or outside should not be subjected to violence. I think we need a law in which adults who are guilty of beating up children are punished,” he said.

Sharing his own personal experience as a father, the debonair actor said his son Harsh Vardhan was subjected to humiliation and violence in an affluent school.

“As a result, he became a loner and lived in his own secluded world. Both I and my wife, who is more educated than me, realised that something was amiss. We took him out of the school and enrolled him in another educational institution where teachers took good care of him. Now I have just admitted him to a film-making institute in Los Angeles. But as he been emotionally scarred in the big school he wasn’t prepared to study in any of the acclaimed institutes in L.A. because he felt intimidated by them. So he is studying in the smallest university there. Now I can well imagine the kind of mental torture and humiliation a child studying in village or cities undergoes,” added the National Film Award winning actor.

Mr. Kapoor, who is the goodwill ambassador for Plan India, also inaugurated an exhibition, “Voices of Children”, highlighting issues of violence in schools through comics, cartoons, radio jingles and animation.

Releasing a report on the “Campaign in India”, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairperson Shanta Sinha said: “The use of violence on children is an expression of the unquestioning power that an adult chooses to establish over the child. This abuse of power is often considered essential and natural. Such social acceptance to corporal punishment results in all forms of violence against children.”

The campaign is currently being launched in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Rajasthan, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and New Delhi in which Plan India will try to directly improve the lives of traumatised children.

The campaign is about preventing all forms of violence including corporal punishment, sexual abuse, neglect, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, bullying, youth gangs, use of weapons and harassment in schools.

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