New Delhi, 17-March, 2015 | The Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi has said that the ministryis fully dedicated towards creating an enabling environment for empowerment of women as well as for the protection, care, safety and survival of children. Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi was replying to a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the working of the WCD Ministry. The Ministry has taken up new areas of activities, new processes and new ways of doing things, in the last few months, she said. These processes aim to produce more outcomes and results that impact positively on our mandated community which is women and children.
She said one of the most important challengebefore us is the declining child sex ratio (CSR) and female foeticide. The declining CSR is alarming and disturbing. The CSR has declined from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001 and 918 in 2011. Recognizing the need for urgent action, Government announced in the Budget Speech 2014-15, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) programme to empower the girl child and enable her education.
Giving further details about the work done over the last year, she said that the Ministry has started work on establishment of One Stop Centres for women who are affected by violence and has already requested the States and Union Territories to provide land for establishing One Stop Centre in each State and Union Territory. It will soon be extended to one centre in each district. These centres will provide legal, medical, psycho-social and police assistance to women who have suffered violence and will be funded from the Nirbhaya Fund. They will also be connected by an All-India Women’s Helpline.
On the issue of safety of children shesaid that the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) has brought several existing child protection programs, under one umbrella, with enhanced financial norms and also introduced several new features.To avoid kidnapping and for children in distress, Emergency Outreach Services are provided through CHILDLINE Service which is a 24-hour toll free emergency outreach telephone service (1098).
On March 5, 2015, the ministry has launched a major initiative in collaboration with Ministry of Railways to provide care and protection to children who come in contact with the railways.Assigned NGOs will work closely with Railway Station authorities for which a Standard Operating Procedure has been developed. Twenty railway stations have already been assigned such NGOs, the Minister said.
With a view to address the various programmatic, management and institutional gaps and to meet the administrative and operational challenges, Government has approved strengthening and restructuring of ICDS Scheme which include Special focus on children under 3 years and pregnant and lactating mothers and Community based care of underweight children (SnehaShivir) in 200 high burden districts among others. For the first time under the Scheme the approval and release of funds have been linked to the detailed Annual Action Plans prepared by all states in a participatory exercise involving the states. To tackle the problem of under nutrition a new invigorated National Nutrition Mission is being formulated. The Mission will involve a real time monitoring of under-nutritioned and mal-nutritioned children with extensive use of technology. The ministry is in the process of establishing state- of-the-art laboratories to monitor the quality of food and Take Home Rations being provided to women and children.
The Ministry has also reformed the STEP (Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women) and a very enthusiastic response to the new STEP scheme has been received by the ministry which was launched in December, 2014. Efforts are also being made to link women artisans directly to the market so that they are fairly compensated for their skills and for this purpose, women melas are being organized in different parts of the country. The Rashtriya Mahila Koshhas also been restructured so that it can be a strong instrument for skill development of women and provides a holistic solution to skill development as well as financial assistance for women to become micro entrepreneurs.
Smt Maneka said that she has already requested the Home Minister to examine the possibility of appointment of Special Police Officers (SPOs) to function as a bridge between the women affected by violence and the police authorities. The Ministry has offered to work with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the State Governments to work on this innovative method where young girls are trained to function as honorary special police officers. She also said that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, once passed, will address complex issues of heinous crimes committed by Juveniles as well as pave the way for making adoption of children easier in the country. It will also bring in the new concept of Foster Care which will enable children to be placed with willing families instead of putting them in children homes and orphanages.
The amendment to National Commission for Women Act, 1990 will be another instrument to strengthen the institutional infrastructure for providing safety and empowerment to the women in India, the Minister explained.
The Members of the House also gave various suggestions and ideas which can help to create a safe and secure environment for women and children in the country.