Harsh jail terms await those who mete out cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment. Sen­si­ti­sa­tion of teach­ers along with lesser puni­tive mea­sures may be a bet­ter fix


Sen­si­ti­sa­tion of teach­ers may be a bet­ter fix to ban­ish the era of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment

Imag­ine a sce­nario where the teacher is afraid of the stu­dent be­cause of a strong law

THE PRO­POSED amend­ments to the Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice (Care and Pro­tec­tion of Chil­dren) Act, 2000, which is be­ing re­named as the Child Jus­tice (Care, Pro­tec­tion and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of Chil­dren) Act, could have far-reach­ing reper­cus­sions. These changes are based on a sur­vey con­ducted by the Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Pro­tec­tion of Child Rights ( NCPCR), which states that teach­ers who mete out cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment be se­verely pun­ished. The sur­vey — Elim­i­nat­ing Cor­po­ral Pun­ish­ment in Schools — lists some shock­ing de­tails such as, 99.86 per­cent of chil­dren have suf­fered pun­ish­ment in one form or the other. It also states that the top five forms of abuse, with an in­ci­dence of over 50 per­cent, are de­ri­sive ad­jec­tives, can­ing, be­ing slapped on the cheek, hit on the back, and ears get­ting boxed.

The ad­jec­tives used to mete out ver­bal abuse un­der the cat­e­gory “de­ri­sive ad­jec­tives” are: pa­gal, nalayak, kam­chor, be­wakoof, idiot, fool, etc. It is true that these words are rep­re­hen­si­ble and they may cause dis­tress to the child. But it is also im­por­tant to look at the pro­posed pe­nal pro­vi­sions, which carry jail terms higher than those in the In­dian Pe­nal Code ( IPC). Cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment caus­ing sim­ple in­jury and emo­tional dis­tress to the child would carry a jail term of one year. Sub­se­quent of­fences could at­tract a three-year term. If the child is griev­ously hurt or sub­ject to se­vere men­tal trauma, the teacher would be given a five-year sen­tence. Sub­se­quent of­fences would at­tract a seven-year term. The ef­forts made by the NCPCR are praise­wor­thy. It is also true that chil­dren con­sti­tute about 50 per­cent of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion and that child abuse does have a high in­ci­dence in In­dia. How­ever, there is a need to an­a­lyse the pro­posed quan­tum of pun­ish­ment on teach­ers, as also the larger im­pact on the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

The pro­posed jail terms are at par with other heinous of­fences un­der the IPC. The idea may be to cre­ate a strong de­ter­rent among teach­ers and other school staff. How­ever, merely ef­fect­ing strong laws is not al­ways the best way out, as laws tend to be mis­used, abused and some­times se­lec­tively ap­plied too. Sen­si­ti­sa­tion of teach­ers along with lesser puni­tive mea­sures may be a bet­ter fix.

But there is the larger is­sue at stake now. Fol­low­ing the new guide­lines for Right To Ed­u­ca­tion, schools need to fol­low a ‘no de­ten­tion pol­icy’, where till Class VIII, the stu­dents do not fail in any class. Fur­ther, with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Con­tin­u­ous and Com­pre­hen­sive Eval­u­a­tion, stu­dents no longer have the fear of low grades due to non-per­for­mance in class. While there is a great need to sen­si­tise teach­ers about the avoid­ance of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment, it is also im­por­tant to tie this with the larger is­sue. I’m aware that In­dia faces a num­ber of prob­lems re­lated to the ill-treat­ment and abuse of chil­dren. How­ever, if a child does not study well and as s/ he can­not be de­tained due to low grades, there is no de­ter­rence for these young chil­dren. Imag­ine a sce­nario where the teacher is afraid of the stu­dent be­cause of a strong law. The child is aware that s/he does not need to fear the teacher. I guess elim­i­nat­ing the ‘strict teacher’ fear fac­tor in the teach­ing-learn­ing process is a pos­i­tive thing. But the child also knows that s/ he is not go­ing to get low marks or fail due to non-per­for­mance in school. So, where is the in­cen­tive for the child to study? In this sce­nario, if you add the fact that there is a higher school dropout rate among mar­ginal com­mu­ni­ties, such as poor Mus­lims, Sched­uled Castes and Sched­uled Tribes, we are look­ing at a se­ri­ous prob­lem.

High dropout rates among mar­ginal com­mu­ni­ties are there for a num­ber of rea­sons, some of which could be met with the mid- day meal scheme and stronger laws against teach­ers. How­ever, mar­ginal com­mu­ni­ties of all sorts, which also in­clude large swathes of tribal and ru­ral peo­ple, are largely out of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem be­cause they do not see a match-up be­tween ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­a­bil­ity. So, while we do need chil­dren with no scars, we can­not af­ford young adults de­void of all skills. (The views expressed in this col­umn are the writer’s own)


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