There was little to cheer on Children’s Day this year. In fact, the reports that surface around this time brought alarming news. India may be shining, but for many of its children, a dark future awaits. The country is failing its children on all fronts. Crime against children, from the petty to the heinous, is on an upward spiral, with reports of child rape rate having gone up by 14 per cent. The National Human Rights Commission report also found that, on an average, 44,000 children go missing each year. We’re still unsure about how to view child labour: is it an outright criminal activity or a necessary evil? We’re yet to define a minor and there are more opinions than solutions on how to protect the girl child. Universal access to school and basic nutrition are still distant dreams and even for the privileged, a balanced healthy life doesn’t come easy.
To that end, the only ray of hope lies in the fact that at last, India is looking at its children as active citizens. Yet, inherent in this is the fear that the State, held hostage as it is by political ad hocism, will view children as future vote-banks. After all, the kinds of policies, whether formulated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development or the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, are largely impractical and smack of populism. The Ministry of Health finds it impossible to have accountable practices or measure last-mile benefits of its healthcare schemes. In fact, at times, 21st century India’s children seem to have the face and image we associate with UN posters in war-torn areas. If human activity is grievously injuring the environment, it seems to be having a similar impact on our children.
If at all we want things to improve immediately, we need to get our laws concerning children to work. There are three ministers who directly deal with children — the onus of ensuring childcare, their protection and securing their future in terms of access to and availability of opportunities vests in them. Children are the future wealth of our nation. The State and society cannot abdicate their responsibility towards them. The solutions are before us. But we seem to take children for granted because they are largely voiceless. Not a great testimony to a society that prides itself on its family values.