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Issue 10
, 2009
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Children of a lesser God

HAQ: Centre For Child Rights summarizes the miserable conditions of Indian children
Source: Still Out of Focus: Status of Children in India 2008 Summary Report, Date: , 2009



By now we all know the story of Danny Boyle’s masterpiece film Slumdog Millionaire. And all of us can remember number of dirt- stricken faces begging at traffic signals every time we stopped our car exasperated.

However, not all these children have the luck of Jamal Malik, the young orphan from the slums of Mumbai and the protagonist of the movie, who has the right answers for all the questions slammed before him in a million dollar game show.

child in distressHAQ's Third Status Report on India's children talk about millions of these hapless youngsters.

The report comes at a time when the country is trying to build the image of an emerging economic power, even while contending with a deepening global economic slowdown, preparing to host the Commonwealth Games 2010,grappling with the challenges from natural and environmental disasters and fighting terrorism, insurgency and communal violence tearing at its social fabric.

Despite constitutional guarantees and legal provisions children continue to be discriminated against on the basis of caste, ethnicity and gender. Discrimination is at the base of many child rights violation. HAQ tries to uphold these evils in our society.

According to the 2001 Census, the population of children aged between 0 and 6 years in India is 164 million. This amounts to 16 per cent of the total population. Over six million of these people are in slums, where basic services seldom reach. There are about 60 million children in the age group of 3-6 years. Of these around 34 million children are covered by pre-schooling initiatives either under the ICDS or other private initiatives.

Poor allocation of resources and poorer utilization ensure that children in the 0-6 years group are denied ICDS services and supplementary nutrition.

Despite a goal of ensuring every child in school by 2007, about eight million children are still out of it, according to an estimate by Ministry of Human Resource Development.

poor childA World Bank survey found 25 per cent of government primary school teachers in India absent from school, and only 50 per cent of teachers actually teaching. 

If lack of basic education is an issue of great concern, there are areas of greater concern. India has the world’s largest number of sexually abused as well as working children.

We do not still have an exact estimate of the number of children who need special protection. Most of the crimes against children go unreported. Every year a large number of children go missing. Child sacrifice as a part of worship, infanticide and child marriage are some of the other crimes that are increasing in number every day.

There are other loopholes. Unlike in many other countries, the juvenile justice system is legally designed to address two categories of children: those in conflict with law and those in need of care and protection.

The latter includes children in begging and prostitution, children who are neglected, abandoned and abused and street children.

Despite the 2006 amendment in the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 mandating that every district in the country must have a Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and a Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) within one year from the notification of the new Act, the Government itself admits that many states and UTs have not established any. Some states do not have enough JJBs to deal with the number of children coming in conflict with law. Also, there is lack of implementation because of lack of role clarity within the judiciary, administration and lack of resources. The menace of child trafficking is yet another social evil from which children in India suffer today.

The Way Forward

The XI Five Year Plan document has for the first time in the history of plan documents included a separate section on Child Rights. The plan lays particular emphasis on addressing discrimination and exclusion. It says: “ The vision of the Eleventh Five Year Plan is to end the multifaceted exclusions and discriminations faced by women and children…(it) recognises that women and children are not homogenous categories…Consequently some groups are more vulnerable than others.” Thus apart from the general programme interventions, special targeted interventions will be undertaken.