SECURING CHILDREN’S WELFARE

As the nation celebrates Children’s Day tomorrow, expected to be marked by holding multiple functions across the nation reiterating the commitment towards amelioration of children of the nation that has the largest child population in the world, it is high time to conduct a serious introspection to find out as to whether we have really been able to achieve the real welfare of children of this nation through celebrations on this day every year? The celebrations are OK but at the same time there is a need to analyze and review the achievements and policies for this class of population that is poised to be the future of the World’s largest democracy. It needs to be seen whether various pledges and initiatives taken viz-a-viz the welfare of children on the occasion remain confined to traditional celebrations only or get translated on ground with the same spirit as envisaged by the late Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru who was affectionately called Chacha Nehru by the children. After a meticulous analysis it can be easily said that despite having taken a number of measures to secure the rights of the children, results on ground seem to be far from being satisfactory. Even bringing various legislations to ensure protection of children’s rights besides setting up of a full-fledged Ministry of Women and Child Development as against the Department of Women and Development that used to function as part of the Human Resource Development Ministry could not dispel the dismal situation on this front. The failure to achieve the requisite results is evidenced by the fact that even the Law Commission of India has recommended to the Law Ministry the amendment of the Constitution to ensure that children below six years of age are protected from “all forms” of neglect, harm and exploitation besides recommending that their right to basic care and assistance be made an enforceable right, while noting that the current legal framework in India does not place enough emphasis on the rights of young children. Although the Commission, in its report submitted to the Law Ministry also recommended amendments to the Right to Education Act, Maternity Benefit Act and creation of a statutory authority for early childhood development to ensure proper emphasis on the promotion of early childhood development, yet there is a need to focus more on the implementation front as we have not been able to substantially prevent the exploitation of children of all age groups till date with the child labour continuing to be part of the Indian society because of laxity in implementation. The recommendations of the Commission are quite appreciable in view of the fact that these specifically pertain to the age group that is more vulnerable to depravation of the basic rights impacting their health and education. The observation of the Commission that the protection of early childhood development in India depends on policies and schemes created and run by the central and state governments needs to be taken with utmost seriousness by the policy planners of this nation. What is really appreciable is that even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to put an end to preventable deaths of mothers and children. It definitely indicates the strong will and sincere intention of the present government especially the vibrant PM in this direction. With more than a third of its population below the age of 18, India has the largest child population in the world. One out of 16 children die before attaining the age of 1, and one out of 11 dies before becoming 5 years old besides 35% of the developing world’s low-birth-weight babies being born in India. Besides this the greatest evil present in our society today is that of child labour. Despite there being laws on the statute book the violations are visible in most of the business establishments as well as the households across the nation. Nothing can change on ground unless the people at large bring a paradigm shift in their mindset as it is the people who are encouraging child labour by allowing the children to work at homes and business establishments. It is high time that we take a pledge to abhor from any activity that hampers the progress on the front of Children’s welfare. Besides the enforcement agencies should ensure that no violation of Children’s right goes unnoticed or unpunished. In this regard even the time to time recommendations of Law Commission should be accepted and implemented in totality and in true spirit with special focus on implementation on the ground so as to ensure desired results in the direction of securing Children’s welfare.