Matter of disgrace

Though it is routinely claimed that children are the future of the country, it is hardly the place for them to live in and grow up. The statistics about children’s conditions are dismal, but the actual plight of the weakest and most vulnerable segment of the population is much worse than revealed by the figures. The economy has been growing, but most indicators of children’s wellbeing can only cause worry. It is not only the children of poor and underprivileged sections who suffer neglect and are oppressed. Most children are vulnerable in various ways and do not grow up in an environment best suited for their development. In many cases it is because of the inability of parents to cater to the children’s needs and in others it is because of lack of awareness. 

The Children in India report, which was recently released by the government, does not inspire much hope. It has already been clear that the country would not achieve the Millennium Development Goals of 2015 set by the United Nations with respect to infant mortality. The report confirms it. Malnutrition is chronic and about half of the children under five are stunted. It is not just lack of nutrition that stunts growth.  Preventable and treatable diseases take a toll of lives and health. In spite of all the talk about education, many do not go to school or drop out early. Child labour is still rampant and there is pervasive cruelty against them. About 15 per cent of children discontinue schooling to earn a living, and in spite of the law against child labour the number of child labourers is conservatively estimated at  50 lakh.

Other parameters also tell a sorry tale. It is much worse to be a girl child than a boy. In fact she is not allowed to be born in the first place, as the deteriorating sex ratio shows. The number of children in the lowest age group is falling faster than that of boys. The  many government schemes which have been formulated for children do not benefit most of them. The large number of laws which are supposed  to help them remain on paper. As a society we are still not fully aware of the rights of a child at the personal, family or social levels.

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