Four years after the Democratic Front (DF) government cleared the Child Development Policy (CDP), 2002, calling for systematic improvements in child protection, health and education, things are pretty much where they began — on paper.
On Children’s Day on Tuesday, Minister for Women and Child Development, Harshwardhan Patil will do his bit by hosting 1,200 underprivileged children at the Great Empire Circus at Cross Maidan.
A day later, as he gets back to the campaign for local self-government polls, children at observation and juvenile care homes will continue getting the raw deal they have been getting for years as the government lacks the will to implement the CDP.
The policy, drafted by the Women and Child Development Department with the help of NGOs and UNICEF, calls for “planned and structured” child development and for the policy to be reviewed every three years.
So far, more than half the recommendations — child crisis intervention centres, special coaching for slow learners, recreational facilities, free legal services for children in conflict with law — have not been implemented.
Vandana Krishna, secretary for women and child development, admitted there was scope for improvement, adding: “There were governance, social and attitudinal constraints.”
Her department is the nodal agency for implementing the CDP. “It’s a question of changing our governance, making public institutions more accountable,” Krishna added. Money, she insisted is not a problem. “In fact, a lot of funds simply go waste.”
“Till last year, the government even refused to accept there was child labour in the state,” said Farida Lamba, vice-principal of Nirmala Niketan and a member of the government task force on child labour.
The CDP mandates loans to parents of child labourers, providing them with work under the employment guarantee scheme or vocational training to eradicate child labour. While the state has called for a ban on child labour, it is mum on the above. “There is no holistic approach to the CDP and no convergence among implementing departments,” said Lamba.
According to Pratibha Menon, a child rights lawyer, the state must take an active interest in implementing the policy.
“There is no free legal aid to children in conflict with the law. NGOs or activists who report instances of child abuse are looked upon suspiciously and made to run from pillar to post. Unless there is a change in the government’s attitude, these recommendations will not be implemented,” said Menon.