Counseling initiative under the scanner, CM and Sisodia

Deputy Prime Minister Manish Sisodia on Friday referred to the notice issued by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), which recommended the suspension of the Delhi government’s ‘Desh ke Mentor’ program due to safety concerns, which is a “conspiracy by the BJP”.

As Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, said on Twitter: “If some good work is done in the country, instead of stopping it, it should be done across the country. The BJP government at the center is being asked not to engage in politics in this matter. It is a matter of future. Poor children. Through this programme, education has become a mass movement.”

Launched in October 2021, the program aims to provide volunteer mentors to students in grades nine through twelve. People between the ages of 18 and 35 can sign up to become mentors through an app created by a team at Delhi Technological University, and they will be linked with students based on common interests. Counseling entails regular phone calls for at least two months, which can optionally last for another four months.

The National Committee had said it had received representation from a Lalit Wadher last November who alleged that the program was bringing together children and “unidentified persons” and putting them at risk. Subsequently, the Child Rights Commission sought a response from the Delhi government on measures to ensure the safety of the children. After the response was submitted, the National Disaster Prevention Board declared it “ineffective” and recommended that the program be suspended immediately “until all safety vulnerabilities are fixed.”

Sisodia alleged that the notice was an attempt by the BJP to obstruct education initiatives: “…the BJP used the National Center for Natural Disaster Prevention to issue a directive that the government stop this programme. They have received a complaint from one of its workers in Chhattisgarh… They are concerned Always that if the children of the next generation are taught, how will they be trapped in the darkness of our iniquities? How do we affect them? How are we going to keep them entangled in collective battles? They are also afraid that if the educated youth begins to guide, how will they start in the battles between sects and religion by sending messages to WhatsApp University”.

According to Sisodia, 44,000 young people are currently employed as mentors under the programme. Of these, he said, 500 are IIT alumni, 500 are IIT alumni, 15,600 are studying – from graduation to doctorate – and 15,600 are working.

In its notification, the National Committee expressed its concern about the lack of verification of mentors, particularly to check whether they had any record of crimes against children.

Sisodia replied, “These young men are all volunteers… We made sure that if the teacher was a male, the trainees were also male. If the girl wanted a mentor, a mentor would be assigned to her… We made the volunteers take a psychometric test and trained them.” 750 young people did not pass the test and no mentors were appointed… Public schools have 5.5 thousand children and we asked all of them if they wanted mentors; 2.2 lakh asked their parents and we were able to appoint mentors for 1.76 lakh children.”

The head of the National Children’s Commission (NCPCR), Priyank Kanungu, said Sisodia went beyond the concerns raised by the Child Rights Commission and tried to distance themselves from them in his press conference. “In our letter, we specifically asked if psychological testing is performed by any professional, and whether it contains provisions to identify any professional rapist… Now if someone comes up and says they are an IIT, or that they have missed it, what are Mechanism to check that? That’s all we ask. They say their concern is that these are children of poor parents, and that’s our concern as well… It’s the government’s responsibility that when they connect the kids to someone, the kids and their parents put their trust in the government, not In that person to be contacted (with whom) … Rule 3 of the POCSO specifically states that school personnel and persons (who will be in regular contact (with the school) shall be subject to police verification … good persons may contact Kids through this app but what is there to stop the bad guys…NCPCR very cautiously used the term “suspension” not “termination,” he said.

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