Vijay Darda : Today, there are two serious issues facing society. The first is the rising crime towards children and the second concerns the growing numbers of children themselves taking to crime. India's history of thousands of years tells us that we never had these problems but the last fifty years have worsened the situation. Poverty has been one of the major reasons for this phenomenon, our growing alienation from cultural and moral values have exacerbated the situation.
Fascination with materialistic life leads many children to crime. They either take to crime of their own volition or are lured by others into a life of crime. Many of these children start with petty crimes and later graduate to becoming 'dons'. Even terrorists are using and involving children in their outfits. Today, India aspires to be one of the fastest growing economies in every field. We are hoping to educate all our citizens well and attempting to infuse exemplary values in them. But children taking to crime is one of the biggest impediments in the nation's development and pulling us backwards. Today not only are children being raped, many children are also indulging in such criminal activities. Children are also accused of murder. There are many children involved in the drug trade. Little girls are being kidnapped for prostitution. So whether they are victims or perpetrators of crime, children are being ruined either way.
According to statistics coming out of the National Crime Records Bureau, 89,423 cases of crimes against children were registered in 2014, but this figure increased to 94,172 in just one year in 2015. Most of these were cases of sexual violence. According to the data furnished by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, most of the people who sexually exploit children are their relatives or acquaintances. So it is time to ruminate on why this is happening in Indian society which is upheld as among the most evolved and civilized societies in the world.
Why are our children not safe amongst our own? Why are our mindsets so debased? Every citizen must mull this over and exercise caution, only then will we be able to find a way out of this crisis. So far as the issue of children taking to crime goes, we must take into consideration the statistics for a clear understanding of why this is happening so frequently these days. In February 2016, the government had informed the Rajya Sabha that 22,740 cases of juvenile crime were registered in 2010, whereas in 2014 this figure increased to 33,526. That means, in just five years, a 47 per cent increase in juvenile crime was reported. These are official figures, though the actual numbers are likely to be higher because not every case reaches the police station.
It is clear from NCRB data that 60 per cent of the juvenile crimes are committed by those between 16 and 18 years of age. These crimes also include heinous ones like murder and rape. The country has still not forgotten Delhi's 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape and murder. A minor behaved like a monster towards Nirbhaya.
Memories of the 2013 tragic gang rape in Mumbai’s Shakti Mill are still fresh in mind wherein a minor was among those involved. Now it is the Juvenile Justice Board that decides the punishment of minor offenders and these sentences are not more than three years. The offender is confined to the child remand home for the course of the punishment. The law of juvenile justice has been framed in terms of providing an opportunity to the offender to mend his ways. He is expected to repent, reform and become a good citizen when he returns to society. But surveys have shown that such juvenile offenders often almost never reform. It is a matter of concern and merits legal reconsideration.
To go back to the question of why our teenagers are increasingly becoming criminals, even psychologists are flummoxed and in constant search of an answer. The joint family tradition of our country once upon a time facilitated the monitoring of children and adolescents by both the family and society. Neighbours too were free to scold a child if he or she misbehaved and to teach them to distinguish between wrong and right. Parents and grandparents at home lived in close proximity to children and could detect any change in a child's behaviour or attitude instantly. Now with nuclear families gaining popularity and joint families breaking down rapidly, things are different. Not all parents have enough time to devote to their children in a nuclear family. Under the circumstances, children become victims of loneliness and undergo all kinds of emotional upheavals. They seek solace in bad company and nefarious activities, at times simply to gain the attention of their parents. In modern times the Internet is an added source of concern. The availability of porn on the Internet has spawned newer ways of crossing the line on norms of acceptable behaviour. Porn unduly excites teenagers and also infuses values of bestiality in them. Moral values go for a toss even before they have a chance to take root and materialism takes over. The teen then is ripe to commit any and every kind of crime. To restore traditional values, we will have to first restore family to the children, infuse them with good values and ethics and draw closer to them to understand them and make them understand. We will have to watch them like hawks while cooing at them like doves!
Before I conclude
Do readers remember Budhia? In 2006, at four years of age, he had just run a marathon. After that, coach Birchari Das was murdered and Budhia went into oblivion. The country also forgot him. Now it is a matter of joy that he has got a new coach in the form of Anand Chandra Das. The 15-year-old boy from Odisha is doing a lot of hard work and his dream is to run in the Olympics. My best wishes to Budhia!