In a clear clash of ideas and politics on youth engagement, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has asked Delhi government to suspend ‘Desh ka Mentor’ programme. Acting on complaint made from an alleged BJP worker from Chhattisgarh against the scheme as being a “threat” to a child’s safety, NCPCR on January 3 issued an inquiry letter. On January 11, the commission called the reply ineffectual.
Hence, the fate of ‘Desh ka Mentor’ programme’ still hangs in balance. The controversy started after NCPCR flagged child safety issues. It contended that assigning children to a mentor of the same gender as them does not necessarily assure their safety from abuse besides showing concern over the lack of police verification of the mentors. On the psychometric test it has sought answer to if Psychometric Test being taken by mentors is analyzed/checked/scrutinized by professional practising experts and if this can this Psychometric Test identify paedophiles or potential paedophiles. It has also stated that limiting interactions to phone calls also does not ensure the safety of children since “child related crime can be initiated through phone calls as well. Further the letter from NCPCR chairman, Priyank Kanoongo stated that while taking the consent of parents is an essential pre-requisite, the “responsibility and accountability of preventing children from such situation lies with the Department. The consent of parents cannot be used as a cushion in case of any untoward incident.”
Saying that report is from Project Managements Unit of DTU, which is a technical partner, but the responsibility and accountability of child safety will invariably lie under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education. The commission has given the Department until January 18 to satisfy it on the issues raised in January 11 letter. “We’ve asked Delhi govt 3-4 things. They’re politicising it but not telling the truth; have asked them if any professional is taking the psychometric test. What are they doing to crosscheck that children will not come in contact with potential rapists?” agencies quoted NCPCR chief as saying.
The ‘Desh ka Mentor’ programme was launched in October 2021 and is aimed at connecting students in classes IX to XII with voluntary mentors. People between the ages of 18 and 35 can sign up to be mentors through an app created by a team at the Delhi Technological University and will be connected with students based on mutual interests. The mentorship entails regular phone calls for a minimum of two months, which can optionally be carried on for another four months. The idea is for the young mentors to guide students through higher education and career options, preparation for higher education entrance exams, and dealing with the pressure of it all. A total 1,74,000 students of #Delhi government-run schools called mentees, are being mentored by 44,000 teachers under the state government’s ‘#DeshkeMentor‘ program.
Nation's first-of-its-kind mentoring initiative, @DeshKeMentor is building a community of youths who can guide our students to help them make the right career choices.
We now have 19,550 mentors helping our students excel in their professional lives.
Hear their experiences 👇 pic.twitter.com/o9JKSajQWF
— DIRECTORATE OF EDUCATION Delhi (@Dir_Education) January 11, 2022
— Desh Ke Mentor (@DeshKeMentor) August 27, 2021
Politics or genuine issue of concern
The BJP has been always wary of AAP’s mass connect ideas. It sees AAP as an emerging threat with its spread outside Delhi. And, mentorship programs being one of the most impressionable events in life, is potentially a youth programming idea and its success can not only translate into more admiration or potentially votes but also an ideological threat in the long run. So, when the Delhi deputy CM levelled politicizing allegation on BJP, upfront there seems to be a reason to believe him.
However, at the same time NCPCR is within its rights to question the scheme and get the loopholes plugged. A proactive NCPCR is needed in this country where voice and rights of children are routinely under great danger and newer forms of crimes including from Internet are making their life more risky and insecure. If this exchange between Delhi government and NCPCR ends in a better scheme, it must be welcome.
AAP government in Delhi also has this tendency of undermining the institutional framework and innovate not organically but with a view to create attention and ripple for its own party politics. It has on several occasions left things unfinished after those didn’t work and moved to reengineering in education. It indeed needs to think as a government first and political party later.
a few elct tweeple reactions
Such a public shame that BJP is.
Tries to put an end to an innovative program, #DeshKeMentor.
— Bhaskar Sharma (@FromBhaskar) January 14, 2022
— Rupesh Paliwal Ek Maukka Aap Nu (@paliwalrupesh3) January 14, 2022
I think one should think above politics and all, to see this program clear and the impact it has made is impeccable.
— Satyam Mishra (@satyam86400) January 14, 2022