Pointing to security “flaws” in the Delhi government’s ‘Desh Ke Mentor’ programme, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has recommended that it be kept suspended until these are “overhauled”. Responding to this, AAP MLA Atishi said that obstructing the implementation of a path-breaking scheme like ‘Mentor of the country’ shows the turmoil of the government. BJP and its government machinery”.
The program, launched in October 2020, aims to provide voluntary mentors to students of classes IX to XII. Through an app created by a team at Delhi Technological University, people between the ages of 18 and 35 can sign up to be mentors and stay connected with students based on mutual interests.
Mentorship consists of regular phone calls for a period of at least two months, which can alternatively be carried on for four more months. According to the program’s website, 20,898 people have registered as mentors so far.
The NCPCR said it received a representation from Lalit Vadhar in November last year, who alleged that the program brings children and “unknown persons” together, and puts the former in danger.
Following this, the child rights body sought a response from the Delhi government on the process of selection of mentors, whether there is any step to verify whether a mentor has been charged for offenses against children, to ascertain Steps are taken to ensure that children are protected when interacting with guardians, and whether they are trained or sensitized about child rights.
In his response, Education Director Himanshu Gupta emphasized that the mantis are appointed as mentors of only one gender and the conversations take place only over the phone and there is no personal interaction between them. He also said that mentors undergo a ‘psychometric test’ on the app before being accepted into the program and candidates have to declare on the app that they have never been exposed to any activity that violates the rights of children on the app. Not charged or included in this.
He further added that the parents of the mantises have filled out consent forms; One teacher from each school has been appointed as the ‘Nodal Teacher for the programme’; Patrons go through an orientation on the app and receive an initiation email containing information on DCPCR guidelines and remedial measures to protect child rights.
On the app, it is optional for the candidates to upload the identity proof while registering. In the ‘Psychometric Test’ candidates have to assess how much they agree or disagree such as ‘I am willing to make great efforts to excel in my professional life’, ‘Men and women are treated equally in our society’ should go. ‘, and ‘I think it is appropriate to lie when I may benefit from doing so’.
On Tuesday, NCPCR chairman Priyank Kanungo wrote to the education department that the response “appears to be ineffective in completely eliminating the safety issues” and recommended that the program be suspended immediately “until the safety of children is taken care of”. Not all related lapses are rectified.”
It states that “it is imperative to state that abuse or assault, sexual or otherwise, is not gender-biased” and that “same sex does not in any case warrant the safety of any child”, and that “Child-related crimes” may also be initiated through phone calls”, alluding to “child trafficking through phone calls”. The letter also questioned the lack of police verification and whether psychometric tests were “initiated through phone calls”. is also a complete (sic) proof assessment of a person with reference to the potential danger to the child”.
Atishi, who is also the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Education (Delhi Vidhan Sabha), said: “…Educated youth from good colleges, successful entrepreneurs, professionals come together to mentor underprivileged students. Doesn’t the BJP want That these students should get only guidance? The biggest fear of the BJP is to see the poor empowered and educated, so they are hindering their progress.
A government official also said: “We are currently seeking legal opinion as to how binding this recommendation is. We have shared with them the details of the process; given the nature of the limited interaction and the fact that the children involved are slightly older.” We think there are adequate safeguards in place.”