Odisha to formulate new children policy amid dismal health, gender indicators
A concept note by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had said that the state was projected to witness a ‘baby bust’ in next 15 years
The Odisha government is planning to formulate a separate policy for children with focus on their right to survival, protection, physical and mental health, gender sensitivity and online safety amid dismal markers of health and gender, officials said.
Chief secretary Suresh Mohapatra said the state government in the next one year is set to launch a dedicated policy for children called ‘Prarambh’ that would ensure every child gets a life of health, happiness, freedom, dignity, equal opportunities, protection and rightful place in the society, without discrimination. “It aims to honour, uphold and protect children’s rights, their well-being and ensure that all acts of governance, legislation and justice are guided in the best interests of children,” he said, adding that the policy document has received the Cabinet nod.
Early this year, a concept note by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had suggested that the state should revisit the existing policy frameworks for adolescents and young people as the state was projected to witness ‘baby bust’ in next 15 years. The UNFPA concept note said that between 2011-2036, Odisha will see 25% fewer babies, which in absolute terms works out to 0.7 crore less births in 2036 compared to 2011.
The proposed policy would also take into account the state’s dismal health and gender indicators among children as revealed in the National Family Health Survey- 5 (NFHS- 5) this year. As per NFHS- 5, at least 64.2 per cent children in the state were anaemic as compared to 44.6 per cent in NFHS-4 conducted in 2015-2016. The NFHS-5 also revealed that the sex ratio at birth (females per 1,000 males) for children under the age of 5 years in the last five years has come down from 932 during 2015-16 to 894 in 2020-21.
Mohapatra said the proposed policy would have 7 focus areas with each focus area aimed at realising the rights of children in the state. With multi-departmental approach, it would also have education curriculum addressing climate resilience & mitigation as well as gender sensitivity, zero tolerance policy on child labour for industries and corporate sector, child census to track the socio-economic needs of children, techno-pedagogy infrastructures in schools and anganwadi centres and online safety of children.
Officials said the various departments such as women and child development, school and mass education, home, labour and ESI, social security and planning/convergence through their existing budget will implement their respective objectives. However, the policy must be revisited at least once in five years to identify bottlenecks and suggest appropriate corrective measures to improve the quality of all services.