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'India?s children deserve better'

Prof Amartya Sen regrets that children have not gained from India?s economic growth, reports Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Dec 20, 2006 02:05 IST

Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen on Tuesday expressed regret that children have not gained from India’s economic growth and termed the high incidence of female feticide as a “national calamity”.

Delivering the foundation day lecture of the Institute for Human Development, Sen pointed out the startling contrast between India’s growing economy and its poor record on social indicators. “We still have high incidence of undernourished children,” he said, adding that some states have improved but the country as a whole has not done well.

While praising the Supreme Court got for its order on the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Sen expressed displeasure over the increasing number of anaemic children and the number of children — a whopping 40 per cent — who are only partially covered by the government’s immunisation programme or not at all. He also pointed out that gender inequality casts a shadow on child nutrition as a weak mother will deliver a malnourished child. He urged the government to review the social sector schemes. 

According to Sen, one area where India’s record has not improved is female feticide. “In west and north India, the ratio of girls to boys is falling. The ratio is only equal to the European ratio in the southern and some eastern states,” he said. There has been a sharp decline in girl birth ratio from the 1991 Census (94.4) to the 2001 Census (92.7), he added.

Speaking of international sex ratios, Sen said the ratio in Korea is 88 girls to 100 boys while it is 85 to 100 in China. “Like us, China also want boys,” he said.

On the theme of the lecture, ‘Children and Human Rights’, Sen favoured human rights to influence legislation on child rights but cautioned that legislation alone cannot work. “Bring in institutions that create awareness about child rights and provide additional understanding of children,” was his suggestion on implementation of child rights.