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`Condition of Indian children pathetic'

By Our Staff Reporter

COIMBATORE, DEC. 12. Indian children seem to be a neglected lot with their health status remaining poor, and their right to education and development not being given much importance, said the Coordinator, Centre for Social Education and Development (CSED), M. Baskaran, here recently.

He was delivering a special address on the status of Indian children at a seminar on `Role of students in protecting children's rights,' jointly organised by the Department of Extension and Career Guidance of Bharathiar University, the Department of Social Work of Bishop Appasamy College, and CSED.

Children have little access

"Children have very little access to information regarding decisions, policies and programmes developed for them and affecting their lives," he said, adding that child rape, kidnapping, abduction, and buying of children were among the instances of child abuse taking place in the country.

Despite a number of laws and policies, besides as many as 122 programmes and schemes aimed at children who constituted one-third the Indian population, there was much that remained to be done.

"In the last decade we have seen a new programme being launched almost every year, but why are there no visible changes? Time and again we are told that the situation of children is grave but that the resources are limited," he said.

Doctors were not called to attend half the childbirths, and there were not enough beds to accommodate 250 lakh children born every year, despite the fact that newborns needed warm surroundings.

"One in every 13 infants dies before the age of one year. One in every nine children dies before reaching the age of five. This is almost the same situation as it was in 1961. Approximately 70 per cent of infant deaths occur in the first week of life," he observed.

Declining sex ratio

"Eighteen per cent of children under three years are severely malnourished, 30 per cent are born under weight, 46 per cent are stunted and 75 per cent of young children are anaemic," he noted.

Children died because of inadequate Vitamin A, iron and iodine intake, and others fell victim to preventable diseases like diarrhoea. Female infanticide took its toll, and three million out of 12 million girls that were born, did not live to see their 15th birthday. Disability and declining sex ratios were other causes for concern.

Although even the poorest of parents wanted their children to go to school, the educational system seemed to be "pushing them out" because of insufficient numbers of primary school teachers, inadequate school buildings and overcrowded classrooms.

He said that child labourers, especially those working in hazardous occupations, besides children living on the streets in metropolitan cities and those orphaned by civil disturbances, invariably ended up being exploited.

The Director, CSED, C. Nambi, said that child labour in any form was detrimental to the growth and development of the children, at an age when they ought to spend time learning and playing.

It would be possible to end child labour by increasing access to education for children, providing employment only to adults, and providing adequate forms of social security. Political will and public support were also necessary.

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