Why CBSE’s Demand for Police Verification of Teachers Won’t Work
Background verification without digitized crime data is pointless, reveals past records.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Tuesday asked all schools under the purview of the board to conduct police verification of their teaching and non-teaching staff.
The CBSE announced this decision after 7-year-old Pradyumn Thakur was found brutally murdered in the washroom of Ryan International School, in Gurgaon, on 15 September.
Though the move might seem like the need of the hour, yet past experiences reveal that this exercise has not been effective.
In 2015, following a series of child sexual abuses in schools, Bengaluru police mandated background verification of teaching and non-teaching staff in Bengaluru schools. Apart from the logical nightmare of processing tens of thousands of applications in a short period of time, the lack of digital criminal records made the project ineffective.
Lack of Digital Records
When schools submitted the records of their staff, police had to run their name and addresses against the police records. In 2015, Bengaluru police didn’t have a completely digitized crime records section, so the records had to be passed to all police stations in the state.
The process was not only time consuming, but came with several loopholes. As the policemen were busy with other tasks and similar verification was required for cab drivers and employees in other sectors, little attention was paid to the project.
More than 50,000 staffers were verified during this time, out of which less than 10 had criminal records. Eventually, the process was called off by the police in 2016, as the verification process proved to be incompetent and many schools alleged harassment from police.
Inter-state Sharing of Records
A senior police officer, who was supervising the child sexual abuse cases during 2015-16 said that one of the biggest challenges in the verification process was getting information from other police departments. “We found that several teachers and non-teaching staff were migrants. In order to conduct their background verification, we had to get information from other state police departments. The process was very tough,” the officer said, requesting anonymity.
No Functioning National Database
Over the years, Karnataka police have developed the police IT project, where all records were digitized. Currently, police have an option of checking names and other details against a digital database, but many other states don’t have this technology.
“Although we have a database now, many states don’t have a similar system. A national platform, where you can get the data of all police departments in the country is still not available. Yes, there is Crime and Criminal Tracking Networks and Systems (CCTNS), which attempts to create a national data base, but it is not robust yet,” the officer added.
CCTNS is a government of India project, where data from all state police will be made available on one platform. However, the project is yet to be complete, as several states have not finished digitizing their police and criminal documents.
First Time Offenders
Since 2015, Bengaluru has seen a series of child sexual abuse cases in schools. After the culprits were arrested and when their backgrounds were checked, police did not find any criminal background in most cases. “As the accused in almost all cases were first time offenders, even we began wondering about the effectiveness having background verification. So, we changed our emphasis to having more CCTV cameras in the schools and creating processes within schools, in order to prevent child sexual abuse cases,” he added.
Governments Should Get Their Act Together
According to retired police officers, the system should be rectified. ST Ramesh, former DG and IGP of Karnataka police said that unless the CCTNS system is implemented, where all state police department share their data, such background verifications will remain ineffective. “Background checks are important but people believe that it is a solution for preventing child sexual abuse. But without a system in place, it is false hope,” he said.
He, however, added that police verification as process should not be scrapped. But as it remains ineffective, other means should be looked into for addressing the issue of prevention of child sexual abuse in schools.
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