The Royal Bhutan Police’s (RBP) public notice says that from now on there will be zero tolerance to the death of children due to fire accidents and, those responsible, will be dealt according to the relevant laws of the country.
The RBP initiative to make homes safe for children is indeed laudable. Unsafe homes have claimed lives of many children in this country. But there is a need to look and think beyond this particular measure to address the problem effectively. There sure are better options to redress our shortfalls than criminalising parents and caretakers straight up.
Our society is changing, and changing fast. And, as a result, we are forced to go through stages of development that are both difficult and threatening. We can read where the problems lie. We also know what initiatives could be employed to rid the society of the problems. Only we have not acted swiftly and with determination.
When both the parents are working, there is no option but leave their children alone at home. Parents today are finding increasingly difficult to find babysitters. There may be many factors that contribute to this reality. This is a sign of change that has already started affecting Bhutanese families.
On September 9, two children were killed in a fire accident in Phuentsholing. Ten days later, on 19 October, three girls and a boy were referred to Thimphu hospital after they suffered 30-50 percent burn in a fire accident at the Jaigaon side of the Chinese Lane. When the fire occurred, the children were left locked inside a room.
These are just two cases to make a point. Many such tragedies will occur because just criminalising the parents will not be enough. Who looks at where our people are forced to make their homes? How safe are the places? More importantly, what existing laws, even if they mean good, augment the problem for the young parents ultimately?
If homes must be made safe for the children of the working parents, regulations need to allow them to hire babysitter from across the border because they are both affordable and available. Only then will we be able to make our homes safe for children. Just threatening to criminalise parents if children die due to fire accidents is not enough. We need to study all the conflicting laws and regulations that we have to come up with a workable solution.
We take it that the RBP notification is just the beginning. It is a good start. But we need to relax some of our tougher rules and regulations to make it work. Our homes should be safe sanctuaries for children, not places for them to die a painful death.