Poor kids in urban India not better off

Unicef report says poor children in city slums face similar hurdles as rural counterparts

The poor children in urban India are no better than their rural counterparts when it comes to health standards, education facilities and other essential parameters, suggests the latest Unicef report.

A boy eats free lunch provided by the Anna Nagar School at a slum in New Delhi on Wednesday. APWith 40 per cent of India’s population projected to be living in urban areas by 2026, the Unicef suggested that poor children in cities and towns should be given utmost importance in urban planning.

People migrating from villages for a better living have been betrayed as their children continue to live in deprivation in urban slums, said Representative of Unicef to India, Karin Holsof, while releasing ‘The state of the world’s children 2012’ report here.

“We now see how a child growing up in an urban poor environment has similar challenges as a child in rural India when it comes to her or his health, nutrition, access to water and sanitation, education and protection,” Holsof said.

Children born in urban slums faces similar hardships as those in rural India, be it dying young, being underweight or anaemic or being married off before turning 18, she said.

“Unfortunately, for the urban poor child, the situation is most of the time not as visible and gets diluted by a much rosier picture of urban life and opportunities. Great inequities are found within towns and cities, where great opportunity and great deprivation exist side by side,” she added.

According to the Unicef report, out of the 377 million strong urban population, 97 million are poor. One in every three persons in urban areas is a migrant. 59 per cent of them have migrated from rural areas.

The country has 49,000 slums spread across cities and towns. 70 per cent of the total slums are concentrated in five states-Maharashtra (35%), Andhra Pradesh (11%), West Bengal (10%), Tamil Nadu and Gujarat (7%). People here live in diverse settlements, ranging from pavements to makeshift living spaces at construction sites, urban fringes, authorised and unauthorised slums.

To start with, the report insists that more focused and accurate data will be required to help identify disparities among children in urban areas and how to bridge them. The shortage of such data proves such issues are neglected.

“With the projected growth of urban population in India in the next 15 years to cross half a billion, we need to better understand the situation of children living in this rapidly growing urban environment,” Holsof said.

Addressing the event, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Chairperson Shanta Sinha said that there was need to completely abolish child labour in India across all sectors and this would require amendment to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act.

“We have already moved on it and we have written letters to Law, Labour and Women and Child Development ministries, to the Prime Minister's Office and the National Advisory Council (NAC). I think they are taking up the matter," she added.

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