Young India getting Lost? Deviance of the juvenile

Anupriyo Mallick, in the Statesman, Kolkata,February 15, 2017 | 04:03 AM
James Kottor(Note:  The strength of a nation is its young, educated, disciplined and hardworking youth. Europe is aging. That is its weakness: shortage of young productive hands. Fortunately India is blessed with an abundance of youngsters.  But what happens if these youngsters all go astray due to lack of proper family life and that in a country where joint family system used to be its main strength.

The writer gives an almost exhaustive list of  problems  faced by youngsters in India today like breaking up of joint family system, idiot box and smart phones constantly leading them astray, lack of guidance at home due to both parents working, teen violence, drug addiction, uncontrolled sexual exploits  etc. According to home ministry figures, high school graduates involved in crime crossed 65,000 in West Bengal alone. That should give a timely warning to every responsible parent, to pay greater attention to the way their children are brought up both at home and school. james kottoor, editor).

Till a few years ago, juvenile crime was rare in India. Regretfully, it is now fairly common. The factors behind the phenomenon are incomplete family care and the absence of values that promote family bonding. The obsessive concern is to pursue a life of pleasure. The concept of a joint family exists no more; society needs to revive it. The meaning of pleasure should be redefined. The integration of the family is essential and children should be brought up accordingly.

A strict code of social conduct is imperative. Television programmes ought to be selected judiciously. Only instructive and scientific shows should be allowed to run. Poverty has always bred resentment, a primary factor behind crimes. But over the years, a fast-changing and developing society has introduced other versions of insecurity. Across the socio-economic and educational groups, children are affected if parents do not spend quality time with them. To that can be added an increasingly competitive world. In lower middle class families, for instance, where both parents are working, children grow up in a vacuum. In middle class families, parents have a range of expectations from the child, including high grades in school. This often makes the school environment a threat to the child. When children fail to cope with the stress, depression may lead to substance abuse, and then crime. In high-income families, almost every amenity is provided to the child either from parental anxiety to maintain their own status in society or to satisfy the ego of the child.

According to home ministry figures, in 2010 alone, around 54,487 high school graduates were found to be involved in crime in Bengal. By 2014, this number crossed 65,000. And a significant percentage of such criminals come from Kolkata. Teen violence is a common phenomenon in India today. The very definition includes fights, gang-violence, self-mutilation, aggressive sexual activity, explosive temper and tantrums, threats or attempts to hurt others and suicide. Youngsters who indulge in violence are often involved in other kinds of criminal behaviour. They may use drugs, carry weapons, drive recklessly and have unsafe sex.

When we read about incidents in newspapers like the one in Krishnagar , we feel surprised. But we wouldn’t if we paid adequate attention to the violence that we witness daily in schools indulged in by teachers or friends of a child, in public transport, or even in the safest abode for a child ~ his home.

When a child refuses to be disciplined, the usual parental response is to shout at him, punish him, or beat him. The power struggle between a child and his parents is replicated in school between the child and his teacher.  Bullying is also part of a school-going child’s life, but we hardly ever recognise it as violent behaviour. For some, the effects of bullying can last a lifetime, with an almost permanent effect on the psyche. Youngsters often find it difficult to cope with the pressure thrust upon them by their so-called well-wishers to continuously perform, achieve and excel in as many disciplines as possible. Anger triggers anger. If teenagers are spoken to angrily, or shouted at, they are likely to respond in the same way. Parents must not shout or resort to physical punishment too often in trying to discipline children.

The symptoms of aggression and violence among children are intense anger; frequent loss of temper or blow-ups; extreme irritability and impulsiveness; susceptibility to frustration; damage or destruction of property; lying or stealing; faring badly in school, skipping school altogether; smoking, drinking or drug use; early sexual activity; frequent arguments; consistent hostility towards authority; and inability to concentrate on studies or a sudden dip in performance.

Today, the child finds refuge in the virtual world where there is an overdose of information.  Constant exposure to aggression ~ verbal and physical ~ on television news, videos and games do have an effect on the mind. It either makes the child prone to violence or creates an urge to experiment with it.
Adults must ensure that children do not go astray. At home and in educational institutions, they need to monitor the behaviour of children and behave like role models for youngsters. Early detection and counselling for those with criminal tendencies is important so that they do not end up as offenders, and don’t influence others to do the same. This is possible only when parents are cognisant of what is wrong in the child’s behaviour and alert to correct him/her. Teachers and parents need to be alert to these symptoms. Usually, a child is referred to a psychologist only when his parents/ teachers identify a significant abnormality in his behavioural pattern.

Adolescents must learn to control anger.. One must learn to express one’s feelings to a trusted friend or confidant. Disappointment, anger or displeasure must be expressed without losing one’s temper or resorting to violence. Even while facing criticism, a young boy or girl must try to find out whether any part of the critical comment is justified. If the answer is yes, he must try to change himself for the better. It is always a good idea to discuss one’s problems with someone else by looking at alternative solutions and compromises. There should be no inhibition or fear in seeking professional help.

In India, the concept of delinquent behaviour is confined to the violation of the ordinary penal laws. State laws prohibit two types of behaviour among juveniles: the first includes behaviour which is criminal for adults, as for example, murder, rape, fraud, burglary, robbery, etc., and the second includes “status offences” like running away from home or truancy, etc.

Juvenile justice is generally regarded as a mark of fairness and an alternative system of dealing with children through laws. Here the emphasis is protective, restorative and re-integrative with care and rehabilitation. Thus, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, aims at evolving effective mechanisms and creating the necessary environment for care, protection, development and rehabilitation of juveniles in conflict with law.

Juvenile crime and the problems related to it have been faced in all societies. In the developing world, however, the problems are still more acute. The process of development has brought in its wake a socio-cultural upheaval affecting the age-old traditional mores. Scientific advances and concomitant industrialisation and urbanisation have ushered in a new era, which is characterised by changes in the social milieu and the attendant problems. The influx from rural to urban areas has resulted in social disorganisation and maladjustment. Juveniles are adversely affected by the changing conditions. The traditional social control system that served as a preventive check against any anti-social activity is gradually withering away. Consequently, the problem of juvenile deviance and antisocial propensities is rearing its ugly head ~ a situation that needs to be checked.

[The writer is with the Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management (EIILM), Kolkata]

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