One of the series of three advertisements launched by the Delhi Police to raise funds for its youth program.
In a bid to raise funds for its youth training program, the Delhi Police this week launched an aggressive advertising campaign. But one of the series of three advertisements has upset child rights’ activists.
Next to a picture of a young Indian boy on one of the adverts is the strapline, “Help him learn how to chop an onion. Before someone teaches him how to chop a head.”
According to creators of the ad, the child in the picture is between 12 to 14 years old.
The quarter-page advert ran in The Times of India, the country’s largest selling English language newspaper, on Tuesday.
Later that day, after the advert went viral on Twitter, the state-run Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights wrote to Delhi’s police commissioner and asking for an explanation.
“Chopping of onion or chopping of head cannot be said to be the destiny of a vulnerable child. The commission finds it to be an utterly negative portrayal of a vulnerable child,” the notice said, according to local media reports. The commission also raised concerns over why a young teenager was chosen as the face of the campaign. This, they argued, would make you believe that the police were promoting child labor.
In an interview with India Real Time, Karan Mujoo, the creator of the campaign, defended the advert. “When I wrote the ads, I wanted them to be drastic so that people notice them,” said Mr. Mujoo, who works at New Delhi-based Bates India Pvt. Ltd. – an advertising agency commissioned by Delhi Police for the series of three ads. “The basic idea was to make it hard-hitting,” the 27-year-old added. The police, he said, commissioned his firm to design adverts for their vocational programs last month.
The objective behind the adverts, Mr. Mujoo says, was to encourage underprivileged youths to enrol for Delhi Police’s vocational training programs, which typically include workshops on cooking, stitching and housekeeping. “The boy in the picture could perhaps grow up and become a chef, that’s the message I wanted to send out when I referenced the onion,” Mr. Mujoo added.
Senior officials at the Delhi Police, too, defended the advert. Ajay Chaudhary, an additional commissioner of police, said the choice of a younger looking teenager meant that the police wanted to direct underprivileged youths into productive activities at an early age. Mr. Chaudhary, though not directly involved in the advertisements, pointed out that statistics for crimes committed by minors were on the rise, which is perhaps what prompted the police to raise awareness about their youth welfare initiatives.
In 2012, for instance, more than 35,400 minors were arrested for crimes including rape, murder and theft across India according to recent data released by the National Crimes Records Bureau. These arrests were made after 27,936 cases were filed against minors in India, an 11.2% jump from 2011, according to a report in The Hindu newspaper.
The alleged involvement of a runaway teenager in the gang rape and murder of a 23 year-old physiotherapy student in New Delhi last year, an attack which spurred nationwide protests calling for better policing and harsher punishments for juveniles, could also have influenced the decision to promote vocational training program for youths, Mr. Chaudhary said. A juvenile court is expected to reach a verdict on the teenager’s involvement next month. Separately, four men are facing trial in a local fast-track court, on charges of gang-raping, murdering and kidnapping the young woman. All five suspects have pleaded not guilty. A sixth was found dead in his jail cell in March.
Last year, according to the Delhi Police, more than 2,700 underprivileged youths participated in vocational training workshops in collaboration with nonprofits and social activists, according to its annual report. The recent advert says the police force have rescued 64 street children this year and helped 11 of them secure jobs through their round-the-year vocational training programs, which began in 2012. The adverts did not specify how old these children were.
“I hope people see the bigger picture behind the ad – the initiative to impart vocational training to the underprivileged – and not shred the program into bits because of my creative judgment,” Mr. Mujoo, the ad’s designer, said. Two other adverts tied to the program, he added, are expected to be published in national news dailies later this week.
A press official at the Delhi Police headquarters said protocol dictates that every ad be approved by the commissioner before running in print. It is unclear whether Neeraj Kumar, the police commissioner, approved Tuesday’s advert. His office declined to comment.