Dr. Dharmakanta Kumbhakar
(The author can be reached at email: email@example.com,
and phone: 9864517168)
November 14, the birthday of India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, is being celebrated all over India as Children’s Day. It is celebrated on his birthday because of his endless love and affection for children. It is one of the best days of the year for the children of India. It is celebrated with lots of events and activities performed by kids. We organize various programs and different activities to cheer up children and make the day special for them. Children are the future of our country so it is necessary to love and care them until they stand on their own legs. Celebration of Children’s Day is a call to every Indian to protect our little ones from any harm and save their futures for the bright future of our country.
Though India celebrates Children’s Day every year; but in reality, it is a fact that millions of children are being deprived of their fundamental rights; they are abused, neglected and exploited in our country. Every child irrespective of caste, creed, religion and economic status, has rights in the areas of survival, identity, development, protection and participation, including in urban, rural and tribal settings in India.
High infant and neonatal mortality rates, serious threats of infectious diseases, gender inequality, pre-birth sex selection, prevention of birth of girl child, female feticide are major concerns in child survival. Data of the National Family Health Survey — 4, 2015-16 shows that 38.4% of children under 5 years of age are stunted and 58.4% young children are anemic. Girls are denied equal right to life. Millions of children lack protection against hunger. The Government must invest in child survival. Children should have access to preventive, protective and curative services, ensuring good quality health needs, nutrition, education and universal immunization against preventable diseases. They have to be provided better public health services like safe drinking water, sanitation, environmental protection, combating hunger and malnutrition by ensuring food security to families and nutritional security to children.
Birth registration and identity are a child’s first civil right. India has acknowledged the international standards that recognize all people upto 18 years old as children in 1992. Every child should receive services that support early childhood care and development. They have the right to adequate housing and shelter.
Though free and compulsory education is a fundamental right for children in the 6 to 14 years age group, but it is not being protected as half of India’s children of school-going age are not in school. Children with disabilities or special needs are seriously underserved and only 5% of them receive services of any kind and 2% of them can access schooling. Health care, nutrition, shelter and security should be provided for the underserved children. In India, the problems of socially marginalized and economically backward groups are immense, particularly amongst children in urban slums, street and working children, children of construction workers, etc. These children cannot avail the benefits of development opportunities. They become addicted to psychoactive substances and get involved in anti-social activities. They should be provided with safe shelter services and opportunities for relevant education and vocational training. The budget allocation for children must be enhanced. Government agencies need to increase investment in primary education.
Child abuse is a basic violation of child rights. The WHO defines child abuse as forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival and development. Child abuse is more than bruises and broken bones. While physical abuses are shocking due to the scars left behind, emotional and sexual abuses also leave deep and lasting scars. Ignoring children’s needs, putting them in unsupervised dangerous situations, making a child feel worthless or stupid is also child abuse. Regardless of the type of child abuse, it causes great harm to the child. All forms of child labour are worst kind of child abuse and negation of basic child rights.
At the age of playing and learning, they need to work as laborers for hunger. Some of them need to take care of their homes, treatment of sick parents and look after brothers and sisters. They have to work in unhealthy and unhygienic conditions in the homes of other families, tea stalls, city buses, trekkers, garages and industries at minimum wages or less. Some of them are physically tortured and mentally abused. Although child labour cannot be abolished due to poverty, it is necessary to ensure that working children are not exploited. The State needs effective legislation to punish and deter all forms of abuse, exploitation and trafficking in children. Physicians in developed countries are required by law to report cases of child abuse and neglect. A similar legislation in India that makes reporting child abuse mandatory for physicians would be welcome.
Not only atrocities against children are on the rise, they are also targeted in communal violence and insurgency as never before. They also suffer discrimination and denial in post-riot situations. Children of indigenous and tribal communities suffer neglect, discrimination and alienation and are affected by armed conflict and civil violence. They become orphans losing their parents or relatives in communal violence and insurgency. Lack of family or adult support results in denial of basic services. Children have the right to special protection against trafficking, communal and political violence, armed conflict, terrorist activities and migrant situations.
Children should have access to contact services to help them in case of emergency or distress. The emergency toll-free phone service for children in distress (Child Line 1098) should be expanded and awareness generated about such help lines. Orphanages and shelter homes are required to assist children without families. Adoption should give first priority to the best interests of the child concerned.
The child protection services must reach rural areas, where a large proportion of the country’s population resides. In villages, the panchayat officials should be given responsibility to ensure that basic education, nutrition, health care and sanitation are available for proper development of every child. The panchayat should be duty bound to ensure that every child is in school and thus protected from agrarian and allied rural occupations as a part of family or individual child labour.
The NGOs and administrators of government should reach out to the neglected, deprived and abused children for their comprehensive needs that include education, healthcare, protection and rehabilitation. Celebrating Children’s Day only on November 14 cannot protect children’s rights, and there is an urgent need to create an enabling environment through legislation, schemes and enhanced budget to address the problem of child abuse and neglect; and to protect the fundamental rights of children. Only then will it be meaningful and relevant to celebrate Children’s Day.