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Agency seeks over four times more Group A officers, wants integrated finance division. 

New Delhi: India’s controversy-laden adoption regulator, the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), is set for a major overhaul, with the agency looking to increase its senior-level staff strength by at least four times.

This comes at a time when several orphanages and shelter homes across the country have come under the scanner for alleged irregularities, sexual abuse and the sale of children.

While the blame for India’s murky adoption and orphanage scene is often pinned on CARA, the agency has been struggling with several structural challenges for several years.

“CARA became a statutory body only in 2016… Before that, it was only supposed to regulate inter-country adoption and issue guidelines. However, even after 2016, the necessary organisational restructuring did not happen,” said a CARA official on condition of anonymity. “Since our charter, roles and responsibilities have multiplied manifold, this was an inescapable requirement.”

Also Read: Supreme Court takes up ‘mass rape’ in Bihar shelter home after letter from activist

The proposed changes

According to the draft proposal sent by the Women and Child Development Ministry (WCD) to the Finance Ministry – a copy of which has been seen by ThePrint – the agency has requested that its Group A posts be increased from six to 27.

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In the central government, Group A posts refer to those that include the all-India Service. “We are shedding some junior-level and consultant posts, and outsourcing those tasks, and have proposed to increase the senior-level posts in the agency,” the official said.

The CARA’s current organisation structure only includes six Group A posts — the agency’s CEO, a joint director, two deputy directors, an account officer and an admin officer.

“We are roughly tripling all posts, in addition to getting an integrated finance division,” an official said.

The agency will require an additional Rs 2.2 crore if the restructuring is approved.

The WCD is presently awaiting the finance ministry’s formal approval, which has been given “in-principle,” a senior WCD official said. “The finance ministry has agreed but we are waiting for approval on the file.”

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“This is a corrective measure in order to align CARA with the spirit of the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act,” another WCD official said. Before this, the organisational design of CARA did not equip it for its many responsibilities, the official explained.

An agency under great stress

In addition to the structural challenges, CARA suffers on account of a parallel system of adoption in the country. While the central agency regulates adoptions through shelter homes that are registered under the JJ Act, it has no control over adoptions that take place through shelter homes not registered under the Act.

In the aftermath of the recent cases of child trafficking and alleged illegal adoption in missionaries in Jharkhand, WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi had asked all states to ensure the mandatory registration of all childcare institutes CARA within a month. Reports say there are close to 1,400 institutions that are yet to be registered with the nodal agency.

Also Read: This is the reason why Indians adopt more girls than boys

There is the criticism of the agency’s working as well.  There are few numbers of children up for adoption — as per an RTI reply, there are 1,991 children available for adoption for about 20,000 prospective parents in the country.

Given the situation, CARA is in a hurry to expedite adoptions at the cost of due diligence, says Enakshi Gujral, a child rights activist. “CARA is only concerned about increasing adoptions…If they get pushed on targets, it will only increase trafficking of more girls,” she said. “At the moment, they only care about numbers.”

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