New Delhi: With the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) raising doubts, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Friday said all guides involved in the Delhi government’s ‘Desh Ka Mentor’ program are being made to undertake psychometric evaluation before they are taken on board.
“We have taken extreme care on these subjects while deciding the structure of the program. Under the programme, all female students are allotted female mentors while all male students are allotted male mentors,” said Sisodia.
Sisodia said that parental consent has been made mandatory for students to seek allotment of a mentor under the programme.
“All those who have come forward to participate as mentors are being made to undertake psychometric evaluation and only those who pass the test are being allotted mentees,” he added in response to objection raised by the NCPCR seeking suspension of the program till all the loopholes are taken care of.
Meanwhile, NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanongoo alleged that the Delhi government is politicising the issue.
Asserting the Delhi government is “washing its hands from responsibility” of these children, he said: “Instead of fixing the loopholes highlighted by us, they are turning a blind eye.”
Questioning what issue does the Delhi government has in conducting police verification of the mentors of this programme, the NCPCR chairperson said: “The Delhi government is hiding its own inefficiency by not conducting the police verification here. Moreover, they are saying that a psychometric test of the mentors is conducted.”
“I want to ask them: Is this psychometric test a full proof assessment of a person in terms of potential threat to any child? Is this psychometric test analysed, checked or scrutinised by professional practicing experts? Can this psychometric test identify pedophiles or potential pedophiles? Kanongoo asked, PTI reported.
Stating the Deputy Chief Minister mentioned that parents’ consent is taken, the NCPCR chairperson said: “If you are repeatedly saying that these children come from poor sections of society and need career guidance then how can you expect the parents to be capable of taking the decision of participation in the programme.”
The apex child rights body had previously expressed concern over children being exposed to unknown people through this program and the potential for crime and abuse.
“It has been stated in the response that to protect against violation, mentees are assigned mentors who are from the same gender, it is imperative to place here that abuse or assault or sexual or otherwise, is not gender biased but same gender does not necessarily assure safety of any child in any terms,” the NCPCR said in its letter to Chief Secretary Vijay Kumar Dev earlier on Monday.
Asserting the program should be suspended till all loopholes pertaining to the safety of children are overhauled, the apex child rights body said that the response received appears to be “ineffectual in completely dousing the safety issues pertaining to the exposure of children towards unknown people leading to potential crime/abuse”.
Stated the personnel involved in dealing with the scheme do not seem to be gender sensitised and also seem to lack knowledge about the nuances of child sexual abuse, the NCPCR said they are also not aware about laws related to children, including POCSO Act, 2012 and JJ Act, 2015.
The commission said that the letter received is silent on the question of police verification and hence it seems no police verification is being done of the mentees to ensure safety of the children.
“It has been mentioned in the response that ‘registration process includes psychometric tests of the mentees before they are accepted into the program. Is this Psychometric Test analyzed/checked/scrutinized by professional practicing experts? Can this Psychometric Test identify Pedophiles or potential Pedophiles? the NCPCR asked, PTI reported.
Highlighting the response mentions that the interaction between the mentor and the mentee is done through phone calls, the apex child rights body said: “It may be noted that child related crime can be initiated through phone calls as well. For instance, children are susceptible to probable child trafficking through phone calls. Is there any mechanism to prevent the origin of cybercrimes and child trafficking?
“The response also presents that parents of the mentees enrolled fill their consent forms to allow their child to join the program. The consent of parents is indeed an essential prerequisite for involving children in such activities,” the commission added.
The NCPCR said this, however, does not help in preventing any violence abuse against children, adding the responsibility and accountability of preventing children from such situations lies with the department.
The commission further said the consent of parents cannot be used as a cushion in case of any untoward incident.
The NCPCR, which had earlier last month also written to the Delhi Chief Secretary in this regard, asked for a compliance report with supporting documents within seven days.
Earlier in October last year, the Delhi government had launched this programme, which has Bollywood actor Sonu Sood as its brand ambassador.
The students of Classes 9 to 12 of Delhi government schools will under this program be guided by dedicated mentors in exploring diverse career and life options.
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