Indian Children And Their Hopes For A Better Future

There are still many problems with India and the way in which it approaches care for its many street children. While rights for children are recognized there are still many areas where children slip through the gaps and fall into the dark edges of society. Here they are often exposed to abuse and live a miserable existence. Sometimes things may be common place for so many kids in more affluent western countries so the extent that they’ll think nothing of it in, such modern rights to enjoyment and self development are much rarer in India.

“The Constitution of India recognizes children as full-fledged citizens and guarantees them fundamental rights. But the total governmental expenditure on children last year was below 4 percent of the total budget.

With spectacular show of arms and soldiers` parade in the presence of Russian president Vladimir Putin, India completed 58 years as republic.

India’s constitution is termed as best written human rights documents with several articles on children’s welfare and development.

Alas, despite quantum jump on several fronts during last five decades most children are yet to become national priority and many provisions remains on the papers only.

Just when the entire world was watching India’s Republic Day celebration,one of the southern states, Tamil Nadu, which has reputation of having taken several path breaking child development programs and is ruled by a progressive regional political party Dravid Munnatra Kandgham took the decision to reverse the three year old recommendation of dropping Rule 51 (which permitted teachers to beat students).

Now teachers can inflict corporal punishment on children. It is in this light one needs to critically look at the state of children in India.

Education:

India introduced a law to make elementary education a fundamental right of every child in 2000 only to retract from some provisions in 2006. Officially in India today some 35 million children are still being deprived of their right to education.

In other words 19 if every 100 children are out of school. In case of girl child the scenario is grimmer. The average year a girl spends in school is only 1.8 as compared to 5.5 for boys. Of those deprived of their right to education a large proportion are form socially disadvantaged groups (46% Scheduled Tribes and 38 % Dalits). And, though there exists a legislation and a policy of inclusive education, a govt study in 2004 revealed that only 0.51 % of disabled children are in mainstream educational institutions at the school level.

Girls still have a secondary status in Indian society and do not enjoy equal rights as other children do. This discrimination starts before birth with fetus sex selection being widely practiced around the country. This feature has created an adverse sex ration of 935 girls to 1000 boy and lower access of girls to health facilities (56 % of adolescent girls in 11 to 15 years age group are anaemic), and less enrollment of girls in schools (79 per 100 boys in primary and only 65/ 100 in secondary.

Though there exist a law saying marriage is illegal for girls under 18 years and for boys under 21 the average age of marriage for majority of girls is 16.2 years (Census 2001) this situation makes girls more prone to poor health and more vulnerable to domestic violence.

Two issues still plague the minds of civil society: one, disabled children and another children affected by HIV/AIDS.

Several reports indicate that disabled children are not benefiting from equal rights to others due to strongly entrenched stigma and discrimination, and are certainly no in education Disable d children are not receiving very little help from government machinery.

According to government sources in domestic policy and foreign language education (see Spanish vocabulary), 5 % of population is disabled in one way or other. A disabled child is still considered to a matter of shame even for an educated family in India. Until recently disability related child policies have been paternalistic based on ad-hocism. Society has strong negative attitude of children with disability and the Rights concepts are missing.

HIV/AIDS India has the second highest national total (5.1 million) of persons living with HIV/AIDS. 200,000 are children under 15 y3eaqrs Nearly one million children have lost one or both parents to this illness in India.

The government considers six states to be high prevalence (more than 1 % of the population living with HIV/AIDS infection) zone. Children who are HIV positive or whose caregivers are infected have been denied access to school or treated badly.

Often they have to drop out from the school as either they have to take care of the home or a family member or because they are unable to pay school fees. Extended family members refuse to care for children orphaned by AIDS especially those who are also HIV positive. Institutions, including health center facilities and orphanages are known to reject HIV positive children. Social exclusion of such children is growing in India and even in Kerala with 98 % literacy rate cases of boycotting children have come to light.

Conflict and Insurgency

Another emerging phenomenon is of children in conflict and insurgency areas. Children’s rights are constantly being restricted and violated due to on going conflict in India. Jammu and Kashmir, the north East, some areas in Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are affected by conflict.

The education system has been severely destroyed and disrupted by such conflicts. School routes are unsafe, school buildings have been occupied by para military forces or by militants, and there are increasing report of children being used as porters, cooks, spies, and even as guerrillas. There are repo4ts of young girls being sexually abused in conflict areas. There are nearly 60,000 orphan children in Kashmir.

The constitution of India recognizes children as full-fledged citizen and guarantees the fundamental rights. However, in 2005-2006 the total expenditure on children was below 4 % of the total budget. There is no policy coordination and monitoring of hugely funded Ministry of Human Resource, which is responsible for children’s welfare in India.

The UPA government’s is planning to correct the scenario during 11th Five Year Plan which will cover period of 2008 to 2013 and Smt. Sonia Gandhi, the force behind India’s recent social development progress is all keen to provide
better future to children.

Several church agencies are active in helping the Govt of India to achieve its Millennium Development Goal in the field of education. Even the hard-core critics of missionary activities in India admit privately that but for dedicated nuns and priests the children of remote areas would not have received education. Despite facing hurdles from the disgruntled section of right wing political parties, the Church in India is united and determined to follow the affirmative action.”

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