With an aim to promote and protect the rights of children and to undertake various activities at the local and national level, the state government has set up a centre for child rights in collaboration with UNICEF.
The project, executed by the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (WBNUJS), was inaugurated on Saturday by Sashi Panja, Minister of State for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Department, and Moloy Ghatak, Minister of Labour, Law and Judicial Services.
Through the centre for child rights, the state government will extend support to different layers of institutional governance in local, state and national level for protection of child rights through various activities. The objectives behind setting up the new centre were to carry out research, documentation and dissemination, and capacity development among the students.
While addressing the programme, Panja stressed on the importance of such centres to ensure protection and rights of marginalised children. She stressed on the political will of the government to address child rights issues. The government has been proactive in setting up the systems in place by establishing the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and also the State Policy of Action for Children.
Panja also stressed on the importance of looking into the issue of non-institutional care more effectively. She emphasised the importance of the centre as working in convergence with the system for furthering the issue of child protection.
Moloy Ghatak congratulated WBNUJS on inaugurating the centre and emphasised on the role of the centre in ensuring child protection not only in West Bengal but also in India. He spoke on the importance of ensuring rights of children for survival, shelter and to live with dignity.
Also at the programme was former Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir, who opined that it is important to understand and implement child protection laws in context of the socio-economic situation in which the children live. He emphasised that the role of the Centre would be to enable greater convergence of all stakeholders through research and by providing a platform for the exchange of ideas.
Justice Nadira Patherya, chairperson of Juvenile Justice Committee, Calcutta High Court, spoke about the need to improve the situation of shelter homes and stressed on the importance of addressing poverty, as it is one of the most important factors that violate a child’s right to protection.
Justice Joymallya Bagchi, also present at the programme, said that the establishment of the centre is a timely initiative, with children’s rights being “in a state of flux in India.” He emphasized that the Centre should take up research on impact assessment of the changes initiated in the Juvenile Justice Act and the Child Labour (Prohibition) Act.
Asadur Rahman, Chief Financial Officer, UNICEF West Bengal, congratulated the WBNUJS for setting up the centre for child rights. He looked forward to a sustained partnership between the university and UNICEF. He hoped that research and advocacy on child rights will not be restricted to the Centre’s activities but will spread to a larger domain.