Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
Children are the important segment of the population. India being a young country, it has been always talked about its demographic dividend where 39% of population, i.e. 472 million are children. However, the proportion of children is declining with every census. In last two census, there was 8% decline in the percentage and population of children in overall population of country.
The National Policy for children says that State shall provide adequate services towards children, both before and after birth and during the growing stages for their full physical, mental and social development.
It includes a comprehensive health programme, supplementary nutrition for mothers and children, free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14 years, promotion of physical education and recreational activities etc.
The Government of India has also adopted the National Charter for Children where it commits to children’s rights to survival, health and nutrition, standard of living, play and leisure, early childhood care, education, protection or the girl child, empowering adolescents etc.
India has also acceded to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to reiterate its commitment to the cause of children with the objective to give every child the right to survival and development in a healthy and congenial environment.
Child sex ratio
The 2011 census has recorded decline in Child Sex Ratio (0-6 years) from 927 females per thousand males in 2001 to 919 females per thousand males in 2011. It had categorically stated that decline in male children was 2.06 million whereas it was 2.9 million in female children. This has been observed across states and every government has been bothered about it.
The child sex ratio at birth had been improved in Sikh and Jain communities but declined sharply in Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Muslims. But the general sex ratio has declined in most of the religious communities.
It is evident from the data and opinions collected that the female is put in disadvantage in all cultures and all religion. It is difficult to say even if well-educated society or economically stronger society have positive child sex ratio!
Where government has been proactive
In an issue of ‘The Economist’, it was mentioned how China and South Korea have been able to change perception vis-a-vis girl child. How as a result of proactive government initiative, Korean society has been able to reverse adverse sex ratio. It means that if government takes up this issue seriously, and government is backed by the community programmes, civil society initiatives can propel a positive child sex ratio and improvement in number of girls.
Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao
In the larger perspective of children’s welfare, this scheme is focusing on the girl child as adverse sex ratio exists in most parts of India. Generally, the girl child is seen as unwanted and somebody who is burden on family. Hence, this scheme is government’s initiative to protect the girl child and encouraged to attend school- primary and secondary.
The PM’s comment on educating the boy in the family can be a pre-requisite in protecting the girl child. The male child has to be educated about living in society and respect women which will go in a big way to change perceptions in mind.
Review of scheme: The first review was launched in Panipat, Haryana because this state has the lowest sex ratio state in India. The Ministry of women and child development claims from the latest review that in 49/100 districts taken up in first phase of programme, there has been significant improvement in ratio of girls for 1000 boys.
No matter how much the government does, it is still a long way to go. It needs to be done continuously and in a committed way. Unless there is a creation of gender neutral society, there has to be protection of girl child. It should not be stopped at education but in also making sure she gets employment thereof and also create a society which values her.
The security concerns of children is one of the most challenging aspect, especially when rates of crime against children, specifically the crimes of sexual nature have been rising.
Girl child faces biasness right from the beginning when the fear of dowry demand at time of her marriage makes her burden on family.
The old order of joint family system or neighbourhood is now lost and the alternative is yet to be developed. This has made children vulnerable and easy prey as there is lack of adequate support system with children whose both parents are working.
Though there is an advantage of demographic dividend, India has maximum child mortality rate in the world. Most of the children die of preventable causes, one of them being undernutrition. The government has continued with ICDS, which goes back to 1975, but the scheme is faltering somewhere now as inspite of so many years, there has not been significant improvement as 42% of the children are still underweight.
Child labour is widely prevalent in India which has created a negative impact on child’s physical and mental ability.
Child protection measures
POCSO was hailed as a game changer where lot of important rules and regulations were framed. As its effect, the number of crime cases against children has been on rise due to reporting of such incidences.
Launch of e-button as an online complaint management system for easy and direct reporting of sexual offences against children and timely action against the offenders under the POCSO Act, 2012 has been widely acknowledged.
The child has to be also educated in school about her/his safety. It includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Such education has made children aware about inappropriate behaviour with them and hence have become forthcoming and reporting it.
India has comprehensive legal framework for protection of child rights in form of Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and recently amended Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act 2016.
A small family is a good one and parents should be responsible in giving the best to their children. Even if it is one child, the child has to be brought up in an educated, healthy and happy way.
To create a children friendly society, participatory governance is needed where stakeholders are made aware of their responsibilities and work towards betterment of children’s healthy future. The society has lacked the stick and carrot rule where incentives are given to those who perform well and those who violate the rules, there is a penalty. The discipline with participation is equally important.
As Nelson Mandela says: The soul of the society is revealed by the way it treats its children.
India has now the onus as well as challenge on itself to make sure that its children form a part of its demographic dividend.
Connecting the dots:
Children are considered to be the most important population of any country. In the context of this, mention the challenges faced in child welfare in India and how can they be addressed.