CRY pitches for children's cause before elections

NGO wants action for zero tolerance to violation of child rights

Every sixth child today calls India “home” as more than 17 per cent of the world’s children population is in the country. Of the 43 crore children below 18 years, nearly 16 crore are below six years and about 27 crore are between six and 18 years.

Also, an estimated 2.6 crore children are born in India every year and constitute more than one-third of the country’s over 120 crore population. But, children appear to be the most neglected segment in India, with the rights of children being vastly ignored.

Now, NGO Child Rights & You (CRY) wants to address the problem seriously.  It thinks the best time to extract promises is elections. With general elections a
couple of months away, political parties of all hues are set to prepare their manifestos in a bid to woo voters across India. The NGO is releasing its own manifesto, which will speak for a large percentage of the nation’s population – the children. It wants some of its demands to find a mention in the manifestos of political parties.

The “children’s manifesto” is aimed at reminding political parties to take
necessary steps towards protection and promotion of child rights. The manifesto plans to ensure that parties and people in power pay attention in “putting children first”.  Also, CRY recently launched its nation-wide “Vote for Child Rights Election Advocacy” campaign. CRY has asked parties to give top priority to children’s issues and commit to changing the situation of children in the country.

“The manifesto is based on CRY’s in-depth analytical report-- Status and Trends in Child Rights in India-An Overview of the Past Decade-- and covers the aspirations of children across 18 states. The report comprises views of development thinkers and practitioners in the child rights area and provides a detailed analysis of child rights indicators,” CRY’s chief executive Puja Marwah said.

Ten commitments

The manifesto seeks around 10 commitments, including “harmonising the age definition for all child-related legislations, ensuring the implementation and expanding the scope of right to education, strengthening the implementation of the Integrated Child Development Services, reducing child mortality and declaring access to quality primary healthcare as a fundamental right.

“Vote for Child Rights campaign is our way of ensuring that there is political will behind our justified demand to protect child rights. It is imperative that the best interest of the child be put at the centre of all policies, legislations and practices, and the Vote for Child Rights campaign focuses on that solely,” Marwah said.

CRY’s Eastern region director Atindr­anath Das said: “This is our attempt to
remind politicians and governments in power that it is their obligation to undertake all measures in protecting and promoting child rights.”

The Vote for Child Rights campaign kick-starts across the nation with a series of events to advocate the cause of ensuring child rights becomes an intrinsic aspect of manifestos of all political parties in India.

The events will range from signing pledges from the general public to getting prominent personalities from across India to support the campaign, to holding of city-centric events to showcase the current state of child rights in India.

Das pointed out that the campaign firmly believes that children, who accou­nt for one third of India’s population, deserve the collective demonstration of our commitment towards child rights.

“We have also called for action to express zero tolerance towards violation of child rights so that every child can be assured of a happy, healthy and creative childhood. That can happen only if children are recognised as rights holders and people in power remain committed to providing care, protection, essential services and opportunities to each and every child,” according to an official.

Low priority

Marwah said that statistics affirm that children are accorded low priority in
national policy and governance decisions.

“The steep and unabated decline in the child sex ratio over the past few decades from 976 in 1961 to 914 in 2011, and high child mortality rates are cause for serious concern, as these blatantly violate a child’s right to life. With nearly every second child being malnourished, India is significantly risking a child’s right to both survival and adequate
development,” she said.

According to available data, an estima­ted 40 per cent of Indian children exist in extremely vulnerable or difficult circumstances, which include forced labour, trafficking, substance abuse, living on the streets etc, i.e. an overwhelming 172 million children currently experience a violation of their right to prot­ection.

“These are staggering numbers and present a markedly disturbing picture, no matter what yardstick or viewing lens one uses to analyse the status of children in India,” the official stated.  

With the goal to make their voices heard and to ensure that the statements made within the children’s manifesto are based on sound data and a well-researched trends analysis, CRY has also undertaken a study, the results of which will also be given to political parties so that they realise the need for including children’s rights in their manifestos.

Marwah believes that the key objectives of the study are to identify and evaluate key developments and trends in the child rights space over the past decade, analyse current status of child rights in India to identify key challenges in child health, education, nutrition and protection sectors, analyse trends in budgetary allocations for children in the Union budget since 2000 and recommend national policy-level priorities and strategies for ensuring the rights of all children in India.

Drimi Chaudhuri in Kolkata

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