We constitute over a third of India’s population and yet our issues remain largely invisible, de-prioritized and mostly neglected. It is true that there are a plethora of positive and progressive laws, policies and programmes for us. Yet, the situation remains the same, with unmet targets and worsening trends seen in nearly all child rights indicators over the past decade and more. The reason for this, we feel, is the significant gap between the intent and implementation. Not enough thought is given to the kind of service delivery mechanism that one needs to put in place for implementing programmes and policies related to us.
On the occasion of Children’s day we appeal to the state and society to make us their priority by fulfilling our requests:
1) I want to feel safe in my Country: Over the last ten years, number of crimes against children has increased by more than 500%, from 14975 in 2005 to 94172 in 2015 . The rate of crimes against children has shockingly increased by more than 15 times. Adequate human and financial resources should be invested towards establishing an effective system that prevents and protects children from neglect, abuse, violence and exploitation. We need to develop as a society which has zero tolerance to violence against children so that they feel and remain safe.
2) I want to stand on my feet before I marry: 29,18,774 children under the age of 14 were married in 2011 as against 66,649 in 2001, which is an increase of 35% in last decade . It is unfortunate when girls turn into child brides have to bear their own children at young age. It is sad to know 4, 57,005 married children under 14 years of age, have become mothers of one or more children. Access to secondary and higher secondary education and retention needs to be strengthened so that girl children complete their education. Opportunities of development must be provided by the community and the state at every stage, so that they flourish as individuals in their own right.
3) I want to enjoy my childhood: It is sad scenario with over 10 million children working in our country. Last ten years has seen only 2.2% decline (12.67 million in 2001 to 10.12 million in 2011) . Amidst this skewed decrease we have ignored the fact that working children in the critical age group 0f 5-9 has gone up by 37%. The Work participation rate for children aged 15-18 jumps to 23% which means nearly every fourth child in this age group is engaged in work. A child who is engaged in labour and related activities often , compromises on education and hence it is no surprise that close to 1.4 million child labourers in age group of 7-14 cannot even write their names.
4) I don’t want to sleep on an empty stomach: India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for the number of malnourished children. In 2005-06 70% of children under 5 were anemic and in 2015-16 it ranges from 38% to 78% across 17 states and UTs. Reasons for malnutrition occurrence are several and interplay between themselves, making it a complex issue. This needs to be addressed in holistic and comprehensive manner which starts with investing in proper care of adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers. Post birth, every child requires proper assessment, required intervention and detailed growth monitoring in order to be healthy and well nourished.
5) I want a healthy life: Only when children remain healthy they can they flourish in terms of overall development and learning at school. We are still far away from reaching out targets of 100% immunization. The data from 17 states and UTs show that immunization still ranges from 53% to 84%. Although there has been improvement from 2005-06 where 44% children between 12-23 months were fully immunized, we are nowhere near our aim to achieve immunization for all our children. A robust health machinery accessible to all and convergence between ICDS and public healthcare system is the key to ensuring reach to every last child.
6) I need a doctor – Children health needs can be adequately fulfilled with having a designated health professional to cater to their health needs. The shortfall of pediatricians in rural health infrastructure was an appalling 82% until recently in 2015 which is worse than 50% in 2005.
7) Make my existence ‘count’: A birth registration certificate is a permanent and certified record of the child’s existence which is essential throughout the child’s life and even later. It contributes in forming child’s core identity, helps smooth transition in different institutions viz early child care and school and moreover also ensures child is accounted for in the protection system and prevents a child from slipping through the cracks into hazardous child labour. Although birth registration has increased, an estimated 22.5 million births were not registered in 2013.
8) I am girl, Give me my right to live: Census 2011 shows that child sex ratio has worsened substantially and is at its lowest ever with only 914 girls for every 1000 boys. We all need to come together to raise awareness on the importance of girl child so she is not seen as a liability but an individual with potential and a productive member of the society, not just a care taker. It is imperative to ensure she has equal rights as her male counterpart.
9) I want to complete schooling: Out of every 100 children who are enrolled into school, only 72 children are able to complete Class VIII. There is further reason to worry as just 48 of these children complete class X and barely 33 children finish Class-XII at the right age. This is certainly a reflection of poor state of education in India, which can only be reversed if we ensure every child completes schooling by providing the right environment, provisions and opportunities.
10) Invest on ‘US’: The child population in our country increased from 450.5 Million in 2001 to 472.1 million and children continue to constitute around 40% of the country’s population. We are demanding for the mainstreaming of children’s issues in every department, and need for them to analyse how policies are impacting children and consider allocating budgets for children’s issues. Given the significant deficits in various development indicators regarding children , it is imperative that government must allocate sufficiently for various programmes schemes earmarked for the children. Total Child Budget as percentage of total Union Budget shows a declining trend since 2012-13 and it stands at only 3.32 percent in union budget 2016-17.
Komal Ganotra, Director, Policy, Research and Advocacy, CRY – Child Rights and You, says, “This is an appeal for governments, authorities, corporations and people to come together to uphold the rights of our children, in their own capacity, at every possible level. Investing in children today means that a country such as India has a chance to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, inadequacy, malnutrition, abuse and violence.”