While child rights activists have raised concerns about the appointment of Naganna Gowda and have questioned his qualifications to hold the post, he dismissed the criticism.
The Karnataka government has appointed former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member K Naganna Gowda as the chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR). A resident of Mandya, Gowda was appointed on October 21, and took charge on Tuesday, October 25. This appointment comes after nearly two years during which time the KSCPCR did not have a chairperson. While child rights activists have raised concerns about the appointment of Naganna Gowda and have questioned his qualifications to hold the post, he dismissed the criticism. Naganna told TNM that the row was ‘created’ by those who did not know his credentials.
Speaking to TNM, Vasudeva Sharma, Executive Director of Child Rights Trust, an NGO based in Bengaluru, said that there is ambiguity in the qualifying criteria for the appointment of the chairperson to KSCPCR. He said, “The Act (The Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005) mentions that the person appointed as the chairperson must be ‘a person of eminence and has done outstanding work for promoting the welfare of children.’ There is nothing specifically mentioned about the type of work the chairperson is expected to have done. This creates room for ambiguity.”
Speaking about Naganna Gowda’s appointment, Vasudeva Sharma said, “The concerned selection committee should have asked for details on what kind of work he [Naganna Gowda] has done in large scale policy advocacy and upholding rights of children work. He had worked in areas of youth and adult literacy and community development but there is no information on whether he has handled cases related to POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences), children’s education and child marriage.”
Dismissing allegations of a ‘political posting’, KSCPCR chairperson Naganna Gowda told TNM that he had resigned from all posts in the BJP and other organisations he has worked with. He said, “I had applied like others and got shortlisted along with five others. Then a committee scrutinised the applications and I was appointed. There are several criteria and I meet all of them.”
Speaking about his qualifications, Naganna Gowda said that he has worked with an NGO named Vikasana where he was the director of child literacy programs. He added, “For over 15 years I worked with NGOs and Saksharata Andolana towards increasing the literacy rate of children. For around five years, I worked on issues related to child labour as part of the National Child Labour Project (NCLP). When Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, I received the National Youth Award.”
Vasudeva Sharma said that delays in appointments of such key posts are not good practice as it creates room for distrust in the government. He said, “The selection process for the chairperson post started in February 2022. Ideally, the process of selection and appointment should not take more than a month or two. Because of this delay, there are rumours that the government does not really care and is just filling the post as a formality, rather than for a specific purpose as specified in the Act.”
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