10/06/2011

WITHER CHILDHOOD? CRIME, PUNISHMENT AND JUVENILES


The latest records of Crime Records Bureau present a dreadful picture of the future of our country. Crime is soaring high but the most alarming fact is that juvenile crimes are also following the same upward trend. In the past one decade spanning 1998 to 2008, juvenile crimes have increased two and a half fold as also their proportion to the total number of crimes has doubled.
In 1998 the total number of juvenile crimes stood at 9352 whereas in 2008 it increased to 24,535. In proportion to the total crimes committed, juvenile crimes stood at .5 in 1998 which increased to 1.2 % in 2008.  As compared to 2007 in 2008, juvenile crimes increased by 7.3% i.e. just in a year. And these are only police recorded ones; what is clear to all of us is that nearly half the crimes do not reach police stations or if they do, they go unrecorded. Looking at these figures against this background presents a picture where childhood is constantly drifting into the lap of criminal activities.
Not just this, according to the Lucknow Juvenile Justice Board, sex related crimes among children are on the fastest track of growth. A paradigmatic shift is visible in the constitution of crimes. Earlier most of the crimes committed by children belonged to the category of theft and petty snatching etc. committed by those belonging to the lowest down the social ladder but the new suggests a strong inclination towards such heinous crimes as murder and rape and committed now by children belonging to the affluent section of the society. For the year 2009 the board has recorded 346 cases of which 35 are rape related and 20 to murder.
Children are the future of any society, of ours too. The constant drifting of children towards crime is both the result of as indicative of, the declining social values and breaking of the institution of family. Children are drifting towards crime as they are drifting away from the familial structure. The institution of combined family has become a thing of the past and in the new concept of nuclear family parents have no time to pay attention to their children. In their quest for material success parents lose track of their children as the children lose track of the right path.
The role of media too cannot be ignored in this process of criminalization of impressionable and gullible minds. The media either digital or print gives more coverage to crime than other things and sometimes presents criminal as heroes and this glorification suggests the children to turn to crime as a fad. For the purpose, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 has been enacted but the provisions of this Act are not followed. As per law every police station should mandatorily have a separate branch and officers to deal with juvenile criminals but either they are not in place yet or they are diverted to other jobs due to excess work pressure on the stations. Correction Centres for children are more of a harrowing ordeal than helpful facilities. Such is the environ and constitution of these centres that either those who come to it become hardened criminals for ever or due to the stigma attached to such facilities the society does not accept the children out of it in the mainstream.
Children are treading a dangerous path in this world of today. They must be preserved if our nation wants to preserve its own future. Speedy and far reaching amendments are needed in the Juvenile Justice Act so as to give it more teeth and efficacy otherwise a whole generation will be lost to us and we would stand responsible for this human tragedy.

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