Working with community for children in Udaipur
UNICEF works with the police in Dungarpur district of Rajasthan to create ‘Child Friendly Policing System’
Dungarpur, Rajasthan (India), June 22, 2022: “Someone has shared my mobile phone number on his Facebook page, and I am receiving messages from unknown numbers. Please help in blocking this page,” says a 15-year-old girl as she enters the Sarada police station reception desk with her anxious father beside her.
The reception desk guides them to the recently established Children and Women’s cell where they are comforted by the Child Welfare Police Officer, a staff member trained to handle children and women issues as and when they come up.
“With the penetration of phones and the internet, cyber-crimes have become a regular problem being faced by children, adolescents and young people even in this tribal dominated block of Udaipur. We have a cyber expert here who can handle small problems, but most probably, we will send this issue to the Cyber Crime Cell and they will soon block the page and take action against the person,” said Anil Kumar Bishnoi, Station Head Officer (SHO), Sarada Police Station.
How it works
Under the Child Friendly Policing System initiated with the help of UNICEF India, the police personnel are trained on a regular basis. They maintain direct contact with communities through selected Suraksha Sakhis (Security friends) and Gram Rakshaks (village protectors), groups of volunteers who support them and bring these children’s issue up during regular meetings with the police.
The most important part of the intervention remains Vatsalya Varta (Children’s Discussion) in which senior police officials organize lively interactions with children in their school or community. This has helped tremendously in bridging the gap between police and the community and building a trust between them. To strengthen this initiative, visits of more than 5,000 girls have been organized in various police stations of the district.
“This discussion forum provides an opportunity to bridge the trust gap between police and children. The children become free and raise their issues for the police to take action - quick action is taken on issues concerning police. We try our best to support the children even if it is not in our purview. Recently, we reached out to electricity providers as children in our Vatsalya Varta were facing power shortage and it negatively impacted their preparation for examination,” recounts Sudhir Joshi, Superintendent of Police, Udaipur.
According to him, one of the major achievements of Child Friendly Policing has been the drastic fall in the number of children who used to go to the neighboring state to work in cotton fields. During this particular time of the year, the police put up special check posts to stop the migration of children for labour.
“We are working to end even the remaining 5 per cent migration that is left in this region. Our work also entails reaching out to family and communities and we are heavily dependent on people in the field to get intelligence on children’s issue in the area. The police work towards protecting their identify to ensure there is no fear of sharing information,” informed Joshi.
Voice from community
“At every meeting we discuss issues of cyber-crime, problem of girls and out of school children. We maintain a good relationship both with communities and adolescents coming to my center and get regular information on children’s issues in my area,” said Abeda Bano, Suraksha Sakhi from a nearby village who recently linked three children with government welfare schemes.
The village head of Chamenda village and Gram Rakshak, Karan Joshi is one of many that take initiatives on their own to benefit children.
“Accidents have become common in my area due to bikes being driven by children, most of the time without the knowledge of their parents. I have counselled many children and their parents to ensure that no one drives without a proper license and a helmet in my area,” says Karan.
Child friendly policing initiative
“The concept of child friendly police system was envisaged way back in the year 2012. By nature, police are trained for crime investigation and they treat people with suspicion and toughness. Whenever a child encounters an issue, the police are the first point of contact and many a times, they will be treated in a similar way,” points Sanjay Kumar Nirala, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Rajasthan.
The first aim of the intervention was to sensitize the police and make them aware of the requirements of children. The intervention also tried to focus more on prevention and reached out to the community and children. UNICEF along with partners organizes regular sensitization of police on the fine points of law related to children.
“The laws are written documents, but we need to understand its soul before working with children. Every law related to a child eventually gives a single message—they are pious, and every issue related to them needs to be handled with care. We are trying to provide this outlook as social issues cannot be fought alone in by police and court,” added Joshi.
The police have conducted more than 5,000 Vatsalya Vartas in school and communities under the initiative. Besides, regular visits to police stations and interaction with the community has helped to understand the prevailing children related issues and take corrective measures.