FIRST CHILDREN’S PARLIAMENT High time we included children in policy making: Health Minister

November 26, 2019

Gangtok, 25 Nov (IPR): The 1st Children’s Parliament under the State Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction organised by the Social Justice and Welfare Department was held at the auditorium of Manan Kendra today. 

Education Minister, Kunga Nima Lepcha, attended the occasion as the chief guest accompanied by Mani Kumar Sharma as the guest of honour along with Kuber Bhandari [Secretary, Department of Sports & Youth Affairs], Dhan Jyoti Mukhia [Secretary, Social Justice and Welfare Department] along with the officials from line departments, representatives from NGOs, teachers and students at large.

The Children's Parliament is a call for action to limit and prevent young children's exposure to drugs and substance abuse. The Children’s Parliament saw participation from students parliamentarians selected from various Government schools in the state.

In her opening remarks, Dhanjyoti Mukhia [Secretary, SJ&W Dept], heartily welcomed all the guests and participants to the event. She highlighted that Sikkim is and has been facing a major problem due to substance abuse.

She mentioned that the main focus on the state action plan will be preventative education, awareness generation, capacity building and specific intervention programme in coordination with other line departments, various stakeholders and concerned NGOs.

During her address, she provided a brief overview on the state action plan prepared by the Social Justice and Welfare Department to address the demand of drugs in the state .She also provided fact and figures regarding the SADA Act before the gathering.

She further stated, "Addiction to drugs create havoc and disrupts an individual's life and family and is a major deterrent for any kind of human growth and development and also for social economic, political stability of the society and state as a whole".

She mentioned that the Department is working diligently to tackle the problem of drug abuse in the state. She also added that the Department will put in more concerted efforts into involving everyone and creating awareness, early identification and treatments and rehabilitation of the affected persons.

She further mentioned that the Department is constructing a de-addiction centre at Kichu Dumra apart from the already existing de-addiction centre at Chuwa Tsar, Singtam. She added that various livelihood schools and de-addiction centres in hospitals has been set up throughout the state where the inmates will be integrated back into the society.

She also provided a brief introduction and overview on the concept and objective of Children's Parliament before the gathering and said that the very idea of having the Children's Right constituted has been to provide the platform to the children where they can fully voice their opinions and exercise their rights to participation.

Lastly, the Secretary mentioned that Sikkim is the only state in the country to have constituted Children's Parliament at Government level.

In his positive address to the gathering, Health Minister, M.K Sharma, pointed out that the problem of drug menace requires more compact, comprehensive, coordinated participation from the society.

The Minister informed that the department has created the action plan and will be organising such activities frequently by involving different sections of the society until the desirable results are attained. He stated that the department has been working to remove stigma by changing the mindset of the people.

Likewise, he said, "My true feeling is that we are imposing punishment on our children by not giving much needed time and space to the children. We are not including children in planning and important discussion. Children need to be given more time in order to tap their potential. So this is high time we should include them in policy formation by staging such sessions."

He also highlighted various activities to be organized under Social Justice and Welfare department, Government of Sikkim which include upcoming football tournament amongst the rehabilitation and detoxification centres, cultural activities by rehabilitation centres and special students, painting competition and flash mob.

Lastly, he ensured all the necessary support and help to the students in all their endeavours. 

Also, in his warm address to the gathering, Education Minister, Kunga Nima Lepcha, firstly expressed his happiness and congratulated the Social Welfare Department for successfully organising the event.

Speaking before the gathering, he said, "One must go to the roots of the problem rather than serving direct punishment on the children. He suggested special counselling sessions for the parents and guardians of the children and added, "Time has come to motivate the parents and guardians to support their children and not to overlook the ambitions of their children."

He further put much emphasis and provided suggestions for involving and engaging children in policy making.

He said, "Our goal is to provide the children with proper education about different facets of life, to make them responsible citizens and support them in their endeavour. Let us make this a revolutionary movement and for the movement to be successful, People's participation is a must.”

He also suggested for corrective measures in tackling the menace of drug abuse in the state and motivated the stakeholders and policy makers to share their recommendations before the government.

Mr Lepcha further informed that Children's Parliament will be a mandatory part of the school curriculum. Lastly, he thanked all the students and children for their overwhelming participation in the event. 

The program came to an end with the vote of thanks proposed by Rohini Pradhan [Joint Secretary, Social and Welfare Department].

Earlier, a debate competition was conducted during the session of Children's Parliament wherein vigorous discussion on the topic of SADA Act took place among the participating student parliamentarians.


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