Spotlight on juvenile crime

Loneliness and lack of care makes children susceptible to criminal tendencies, observes Devesh K. Pandey

A great deal of effort has gone into the reformation programmes initiated in the Capital's jails to transform people with criminal backgrounds into responsible citizens. Though the move has been successful, a lot still remains to be done when it comes to addressing the issue of juvenile crime.

In the absence of proper guidance -- which may happen as a result of poor economic background, lack of education, family problems or sheer bad upbringing -- juveniles have a tendency to digress into unlawful activities. If they do not get caught the first time, they get emboldened and graduate into committing more serious offences. Experts believe that if necessary measures are not taken at the right time, there is a possibility of juvenile delinquents getting into heinous crimes.

A study conducted recently by a non-government organisation, Swanchetan Society for Mental Health on juvenile delinquents, throws more light on the issue. It found that most delinquents were violent and had a tendency to repeat the crime. While the environment they lived in reinforced their deviant tendency, their motivation to operate in gangs had also got entrenched. Signs of any major reformation were missing in them because of lack of psychological intervention.

Says Rajat Mitra of Swanchetan: "Lack of positive role models is also a major reason why juveniles take to crime as was revealed by another study which found that young offenders looked up to hardened criminals, lodged with them in jails, as their role models.''

Though many consider their poor economic background as the sole factor that forces juveniles into the world of crime, there are instances against this stereotype. In one such case, a minor belonging to an upper middle class family stole Rs.1.5 lakhs from his father and blew it all up buying things he wanted. During the counselling session, the 14-year-old broke down and confessed to having stolen the money. He said his father was always critical of him and also that his parents did not get along well.

It is a harsh reality that in a metropolitan city like Delhi, working parents can reach a stage of neglect towards their children, and factors like loneliness and lack of care may affect their psyche, making them susceptible to criminal tendencies.

While mental health experts can easily be arranged for juvenile delinquents lodged in correction homes, the authorities concerned will have to think of ways to reach out to the large number of children who are faced with family problems as also those who have no choice but to live in an environment full of violence.

The very fact that it is a complex problem, a multi-pronged institutionalised approach is required. Also needed is a mass programme to sensitise parents and children, given the repercussion it has on society as a whole.

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