Lack of manpower hinders functioning of DCPU

Without enough manpower, inadequate salaries and lack of vehicle, the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) in Madurai is finding it difficult to implement various schemes.

The DCPU was started in 2012 as part of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS). According to its official guidelines, the department must contribute to effective implementation of child protection legislation, schemes and achievement of child protection goals. However, an officer says that with only 11 employees in the department, it becomes difficult to implement schemes and create awareness in 13 blocks of the district.

According to the ICPS guidelines, the Collector is the chairman of the DCPU. The second in command is the District Child Protection Officer. Other staff, include two protection officers who look into institutional care and non-institutional care, a legal cum probation officer, two social workers, two outreach workers, a counsellor, an accountant, a data analyst and an assistant cum data entry officer.

With only eight members on the field, an official from the DCPU says that it is difficult to ensure proper disbursal of finances under schemes and create awareness. “We have to be present when there is case of infanticide, child marriage, bonded labour and abuse. It becomes difficult to be everywhere when we have shortage of field-level staff,” he said.

The officer adds that the department does not have a vehicle to travel to scenes of crime or to further investigate child rights problems in areas recognised as vulnerable. Field staff must travel in their own vehicles- usually bikes- across the district to attend to cases.

On the morning of May 16 when the body of a four-day-old girl child from Sholavandan who had been killed allegedly by her father and her grandmother was being exhumed by the police, no member from the DCPO was present, said an official involved in the investigation. Since they were unable to get first hand information due to limited resources, the officer says that they depend on local resources including staff from other departments, local journalists and non-governmental organisations for information.

The source says that all staff members have been appointed on consolidated pay and that their contracts are short. “People on the scale of outreach workers get only ₹8,000 as salary for the whole month. It becomes difficult to allocate funds for travel out of one’s own pocket,” the officer says.

When asked about increasing the manpower, District Collector and Chairman of DCPU T. G. Vinay says that the available strength was enough at the moment. “Any increase in manpower needs to be assessed based on the number of cases recorded in the district calling for child protection,” he says.

Till date, the district has recorded 32 cases of child sex abuse under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, one case of child marriage and two cases of female infanticide according to the district Crime Against Women and Children wing police.

The Collector adds that enough vehicles are available with allied units like the Child Welfare Committee at the moment.

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