Will 'super power' India pay attention to child rights?

The hurly burly of elections is over. While a new government settles down into a secure five-year rule, a useful question awaits a response. What is the scenario like for the future citizens of the country?

Life continues to be a struggle for existence for the vast majority, especially children of a lesser God, who continue to eke out their existence by the roadside foraging and picking garbage from the large mounds of wastes generated by our ‘happening city.’
Are they destined to be the forgotten generation in our democratic polity since they do not have a strident voice to assert their rights?

Child rights organisations like CRY (Child Rights and You) had appealed to politicians across the country to ensure that children’s issues were not forgotten during elections. Many children’s organisations have pointed out the deafening silence of the ‘netas’ across the political spectrum, since children cannot vote.

Activists are demanding an increase in government expenditure on children, to ensure that those children aged 6-18 years get education as a matter of right. They want the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill 2008 to be redrawn to reflect the children’s right to education, provision of free and nutritious mid-day meals in all primary schools and extending the scheme to include out of school children.

The Convention on the Rights of Children lays down the principles of non-discrimination in the best interest of the child. India ratified the convention on Dec 11, 1992. Yet we are far from realising it. Children’s rights in the country and the efforts to promote it remain elusive.

In the political din of pre-election agenda of political parties, one fourth of the country’s population was given no consideration whatsoever. After all, these 400 million citizens constitute nobody’s vote-bank!

If only we make a collective effort to break away from the conspiracy of silence towards the voiceless millions, we will ensure a sound investment for the future of our country. The challenges are many. The daunting task of educating street children is more than an educational problem. It needs a holistic approach of moulding and supporting their entire lives.

Their increasing exposure to violence is another core area that cries for attention. The trauma that children have suffered in the Nandigram violence has been documented by a child rights organisation but the two political parties — busy taking potshots at each other — had no time to ponder over such ‘trivial inanities.’

Exposure to violence

Children suffer, but not so silently in the crossfire. All manner of violent vocabulary, like, ‘santrash, hatao, jalao’ have permeated their everyday language. The irreparable damage to their psyche can easily be imagined.

Corruption does not spare even mid-day meal scheme. It has been reported that in Madhya Pradesh children are either not getting meals or getting it in insufficient quantities, despite tall claims by the government about increasing attendance in schools.
The story of child protection is a sorry one. Across the world, children remain vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. They must be protected from child labour, abuse and trafficking. Without a political will to stop such social evils and discrimination from flourishing, it is impossible for non-government organisations alone to put an end to indignities heaped upon this soft target.

We will remain yearning for something that is irredeemably lost. We talk of the growth potential of our growing economy, India as a knowledge hub, emerging superpower and a political giant with a growing clout in the global arena, yet we tend to ignore the most important resource to the country’s future — children, who can take on the mantle of leadership and carve out our success story.

There’s an acute absence of political will to nurture this segment of the society since they do not constitute a slice of the vote-bank. Ignored, marginalised from the collective consciousness of our political masters, children across the social spectrum are a voiceless lot.
Statistics cry for attention. Seventy out of every thousand children born die each year due to lack of timely medical support or malnourishment. Every second child under five years is malnourished in our country. About 52 per cent of the children, who are out of school now need to be enrolled for formal schooling.
While the country is setting aside a huge expenditure for its defence spending, a woeful sum is allotted for education of children. Such short sightedness of political leaders can only harm the growth potential of our country.
Political masters representing the largest democracy in the world must realise that the ultimate winners should be children. In them lies the future growth. It sounds a tired cliché but such an obvious truth seems to be lost on the ‘Movers and Shakers’ of the country.

Comments (+)