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Lack of Crèche, Low Funds, Alarming Data: In Open Letter, Activists Say 'Time We Focus on Child Issues'

The letter makes a mention of the 2016 Global Slavery index in which India was found to be leading the world in modern slavery, sex and labour trafficking.

News18.com

Updated:April 13, 2019, 6:13 PM IST
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Lack of Crèche, Low Funds, Alarming Data: In Open Letter, Activists Say 'Time We Focus on Child Issues'
News18 Creative by Mir Suhail

Around 150 social activists working on child rights issues, writers, artists, film makers and mediapersons have written an open letter to the public, urging them to keep in mind the issue of children.

"Crime against children has risen by 16.39% between 2014 and 2016. Union Budgets for children have declined from 4.76% of the total allocations in 2012-13 to 3.25 % in 2019-20," the letter states.

The letter makes a mention of the 2016 Global Slavery index in which India was found to be leading the world in modern slavery, sex and labour trafficking.

"As horrifying as it sounds, rapes of children have increased by 82%. Equally horrifying is the fact that many of the child rapists continue to enjoy impunity, especially if the victims are Muslim, Dalit or OBC or other marginalised groups, as illustrated by the Kathua, Unnao and Muzaffarpur, Deoria and other shelter home cases," the letter adds.

Mentioning some of the "regressive" policy measures undertaken by the government, the letter talks about the introduction of Child Labour (Prohibition) Act of 2016 which allows "children to work in 'family enterprises', making children more vulnerable and confining them to caste based occupations".

"In another regressive measure, the Juvenile Justice Act was amended to allow for children, between the ages of 16 and 18, to be tried as adults in case of heinous offences. Research shows, putting children into the criminal justice system further criminalises them."

The letter Budgets for post matric scholarship scheme for SCs has been reduced by 60%; for girls’ hostel for SCs by 40.32%; for post-matric scholarship for OBCs by 17.35% and boys and for girls’ hostel for OBCs by 40%. Children with disabilities still ‘dream’ for inclusion.

Jointly signed by economist and social activist Jean Dreze, film maker Deepa Mehta, Anurag Kundu, member Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), among others, states that an estimated 8,143 crèches closed between 2013-14 and 2016-17, and the number of women and children benefiting from the National Crèche Scheme have been cut by 39% (from 474, 775 to 290,925).

“Anganwadi workers who cook and care for millions of children as part of the Integrated Child Development Services, the world’s largest infant and pregnant mother nutrition programme, are paid one-tenth of the legal minimum wage. They recently went on strike saying that the government wants to replace the food cooked by them with packaged products made by MNCs. They have not been given food supplements for the last year in many states.”

Several other child rights’ outfits like Chetna, have been making the same point innovatively. Through ‘Balaknama’, a newspaper run by street children for children, a piece titled ‘Street and working children’s demands from political parties’ has an article by a child reporter, quoting another 13-year-old child saying, “My family lives in a slum. It’s been 5 to 6 years, we are living at this place, and we still have to crave and fight for drinking water.”

Another girl is quoted talking about the menace of substance abuse among children. “There is not even a single child who not only knows about it but also intakes them (drugs). That’s why I want that children like us should not be given intoxicants.”

Children are quoted talking about lack of recreation spaces, lack of self-defence training, lack of empathy among local policemen and among teachers in government run schools.

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