Children form one of the most vulnerable sections in any society. The true measure of any nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children with respect to their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialisation.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child refers to “a human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, the majority is attained earlier”
India is a young nation child constitute 39 per cent of the country’s population (Census2011).
Issues Faced by Children in India
- Despite decades of investment to tackle this malaise, India’s child malnutrition rates are still one of the most alarming in the world. The Global Hunger Index (2020) — which is calculated based on total undernourishment of the population, child stunting, wasting and child mortality — places India at the 94th spot among 107 countries.
- The fourth round of NFHS, conducted in 2015-2016, found that the prevalence of underweight, stunted and wasted children under five was at 35.7, 38.4 and 21.0 per cent.
- According to E&Y, India loses around 4% of its GDP annually due to malnourishment
- The lack of proper nutrition for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and young children, especially before their second birthday can impair the child’s brain development, cognitive abilities and physical development, leading to stunting or reduced growth.
- Learning gap -Malnutrition and lack of access to quality early childcare and education results in learning gaps in primary and secondary education. ASER shows the prevalence of learning deficits and the poverty of basic reading and arithmetic skills among students in Indian schools. school closures due to the COVID pandemic have further widened the existing learning gaps.
- Dropout Distress migration of rural population due to agrarian crisis cut off the children from education and resulted in dropping out of formal education.
- Affects the healthy development of the child physically and psychologically. NCRB stated that as many as 1,48,185 crimes against children were reported in 2019 in India.
- Poverty and patriarchal norms force parents to undertake child marriages. It results in early pregnancy and social isolation, with little education and poor vocational training reinforcing the gendered nature of poverty.
As per Census 2011, the Child Sex Ratio (CSR), an indicator of gender discrimination, stands at 918 girls per 1000 boys in the age group of 0–6 years.
Natural disasters and climate change:
- India is among the countries which are at high risk of damage from natural disasters including climate change. According to estimates from the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disaster, between 2013 and 2015; more than 20 million people in India were affected by various natural disasters in India, such as floods, droughts, cyclones and earthquakes, causing a damage of approximately 25 million US dollars. children are the worst-affected population in emergency situations as they face multiple protection and health risks.
|SDG||Targets related to children|
|GOAL 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere||3.2 By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births.|
|GOAL 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture||2.2 By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under five years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons.|
|GOAL 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all||3.2 By 2030, end preventable deaths of new-borns and children under five years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births.|
|GOAL 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all||4.1 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes. 4.2 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education. 4.4 By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship. 4.5 By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations. 4.a. Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all|
|GOAL 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls||5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation. 5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.|
|GOAL 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all||6.2 By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.|
|GOAL 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all||8.7 Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.|
|GOAL 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels||16.2 End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children. 16.9 By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration|
Constitutional Safeguards for Children
Article 21A provides free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14.
Article 24 prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14 years in hazardous industries.
Article 39 (e) directs the State to make policies to ensure that the tender age of children is not abused.
Article 45 provides that State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years.
Article 39 (f) Children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.”
Steps Taken by Government
- National food security act 2013
- Right to Education Act 2009
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2019
- Juvenile Justice (care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
- Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016
- Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP)
- Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) for the holistic development of children up to 6 years of age
- National Nutrition Mission (NNM) to address malnutrition in children
- Mid-day meal scheme to enhance enrolment, retention, and attendance and simultaneously improve nutritional levels among school-going children.
- Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan to enhance learning outcomes and narrow down social & Gender gaps in school education.
- PENCiL portal to engage Government and civil society public in eradicating child labour to achieve the target of a child labour-free society
Child Labour During Pandemic
Census 2011 reported that there are 10.1 million working children in the age group of 5-14 years. UNESCO estimates based on the 2011 Census record 38.1 million children as “out of school”.
However, Child labour in India decreased in the decade 2001 to 2011 due to multiple policy interventions of government:
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005
- Right to Education Act 2009
- Mid-day Meal scheme
- National Child Labour project
- A Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour (PENCIL) Portal
- Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 Of India
|National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme|
Children in the age group of 9-14 years are withdrawn from work and put into NCLP Special Training Centres, where they are provided with bridge education, vocational training, mid-day meal, stipend, health care etc. before being mainstreamed into the formal education system.
A dedicated online portal named PENCiL (Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour) is developed to make the NCLP successful.
|Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 |
It was enacted to ratify International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions concerning the minimum age for employment and concerning prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour.
Prohibited employment of children below 14 years in all occupations except where the child helps his family after school hours and where the child works as an artist in an audio-visual entertainment industry added a new category of persons called “adolescent” (14 and 18 years of age) and prohibited the employment of adolescents in hazardous occupations as specified (mines, inflammable substance and hazardous processes).
The central government may add or omit any hazardous occupation from the list included in the ActProvides for stricter punishment and cognizable offence for employing any child or adolescent in contravention of the Act
PENCiL portal is an online platform that aims at engaging the Central Government, State Government, District, civil society and the public in eradicating child labour to achieve the target of a child labour-free society.
However, economic contraction and lockdowns ensuing from the pandemic pose a risk of backtracking the gains made in eliminating child labour
- Reduced household income, children from poor households are being pushed to contribute to family income with the risk of exposure to exploitative work.
- Absence of Mid-day meals children of marginal sections are seeking menial jobs to feed their families and themselves.
- Closure of school challenges distance learning due to the Digital divide, resulting in an increasing dropout rate.
Measures to arrest dropout rate in Pandemic
- Government must increase the rate of wages offered under the MGNREGA Scheme, especially in rural areas.
- Vulnerable families should be covered under comprehensive social protection schemes to ensure a decent living.
- Cash supplements should be given to the families to compensate for the absence of Mid-day meals
- Improve Internet connectivity, especially in rural areas, to enable children belonging to Rural areas and vulnerable sections to access online classes.
Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram
- A scheme that aims at holistic health promotion for the adolescent population in India (10-19 years)
- It is aimed at realising the full potential of the demographic dividend of India by holistic development of adolescents into healthy adults.
- Improve nutrition.
- Improve sexual & reproductive health.
- Enhance mental health.
- Prevent injuries & violence.
- Prevents substance abuse.
- Address Non-Communicable Diseases.
- The New Adolescent Health strategy focuses on the age group 10-14 years&15-19 years.
- Universal coverage includes males and females; urban and rural; in school or out of school; married and unmarried; vulnerable and underserved.
- Peer Education.
- Quarterly Adolescent Health Day
- Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation Program
- Menstrual Hygiene Scheme
Facility-Based Interventions: Strengthening of Adolescents Friendly Health Clinics (AFHC).
Intensified Mission Indradhanush 3.0 (IMI 3.0)
- India conducts one of the world’s most extensive vaccination programs (Universal Immunisation Program (UIP)) catering to the vaccination needs of children and pregnant women against 12 Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. However, some children and pregnant women get missed out on the network each year.
- IMI 3.0 aims to reach out to these unreached populations with all the available vaccines under UIP.
- The focus of IMI 3.0 will be on children and pregnant women who have missed their vaccine doses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beneficiaries from migration and hard-to-reach areas will be targeted as they have missed their vaccine doses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Achieve 90% full immunisation coverage in all districts and sustain the coverage through immunisation system strengthening.
- Strengthen the existing Universal Immunisation Program for improving quality and sustaining gains achieved through Mission Indradhanush
- Implement intensified campaigns for boosting coverage in low-performing areas and among vulnerable populations. Increase demand and build vaccine confidence for vaccination.
Intensified Mission Indradhanush 4.0Rationale for IMI 4.0: In India, the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted Routine immunization services in the last two years (2020 & 21) which resulted in a fall in immunization coverage.
Even after the resumption of RI services in the latter part of 2020, the restricted movement was compounded by fear of exposure/contracting COVID-19 infection and limited access to services.
Coverage: Three rounds of IMI 4.0 will be conducted in 416 districts, including 75 districts identified for Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav across 33 States/UTs.
These districts have been identified based on vaccination coverage as per the latest National Family Health Survey-5 report, Health Management Information System (HMIS) data and burden of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Universal Immunization Program
- Immunization Program in India was introduced in 1978 as the ‘Expanded Program for Immunization’. (EPI)
- In 1985, this was modified as the ‘Universal Immunization Program’ to cover all districts in the country by 1989-90
- BCG to infants to protect them from tubercular meningitis and TB.
- Oral Polio Vaccine is given at birth called zero dose and three doses are given at 6, 10 and 14 weeks.
- Hepatitis B vaccine
- Pentavalent Vaccine to protect children from Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Haemophilus influenza type b infection and Hepatitis B.
- Rotavirus Vaccine against rotavirus diarrhoea. It is given in select states.
- Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine against disease caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumonia.
- Measles/ MR vaccine
- In 2014 Rubella was introduced
- Japanese encephalitis vaccine.
National Deworming Day
- An initiative to deworm all preschool and school-age children between the ages of 1-19 years.
- Observed on the 10th of February every year since 2015.
Orphan Adoption in Pandemic
Expressing concern over the illegal adoption of children whose parents died of Covid-19, SC has directed state governments and UTs to prevent any NGO from collecting funds in the names of the affected children by disclosing their identity and inviting interested persons to adopt them.
The bench pointed out that the invitation to persons for the adoption of orphans is contrary to Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, as no adoption of a child can be permitted without the involvement of CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority).
According to the ‘Bal Swaraj’ portal of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) around 3,621 children were orphaned during the last year. These deaths, Commission said, were not related just to Covid-19 and could have been due to other reasons as well.
Juvenile Justice Act, 2015
Objective: Seeks to achieve objectives of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children as ratified by India in 1992.
Change in nomenclature from ‘juvenile’ to ‘child’ or ‘child in conflict with law’, to remove the negative connotation associated with the word “juvenile”.
2 categories of children are protected under the JJ Act- Children in conflict with the law and children in need of care and protection.
Mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one woman member each.
Special provisions have been made to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences in the age group of 16-18 years. Juvenile Justice Board is given the option to transfer cases of heinous offences by such children to a Children’s Court (Court of Session) after conducting a preliminary assessment.
Streamline adoption procedures for the orphan, abandoned and surrendered children, the existing Central AdoptionCentral Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is given the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.
Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory body of the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
CARA attained the status of a Statutory Body in 2016 under JJ Act, 2015.
Functions as a nodal body for the adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by India in 2003.
Mandated to frame regulations on adoption-related matters from time to time under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
In 2018, CARA allowed individuals in a live-in relationship to adopt children from and within India.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is a statutory body under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005It works under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, GOI. The body is mandated to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is a statutory body under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005.
It works under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, GOI. The body is mandated to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
NCPCR devises an online portal ‘Bal Swaraj’ for children affected by Covid-19.
The initiative aims at tracking affected children right from presenting them before the Child Welfare Committee to the restoration of the children to their parent, guardian, or relative.
Benefits of Adoption
- Adoption can provide a child with the critical resource needed for a healthy and stable living
- Allows mothers to continue pursuing their goals without putting their education or career on hold.
- Relieves the financial and emotional stress of unplanned pregnancy and single parenting
- Gives an opportunity to help hopeful parents who would not be able to have a child otherwise
Risk of adoption during a disaster
- Disasters may bring out the innate generosity of people, but sometimes even well-intentioned initiatives may go wrong. Adoption should be allowed only when the child’s safety and welfare can be ensured
- The danger of children falling victim to traffickers under the guise of adoption.
- The possibility is that children will be uprooted from their sociocultural milieu through inter-country adoptions.