Saturday, 15 February 2014

India Fares Poorly in Welfare of Children: Report

By Express News Service - BANGALORE

Published: 10th February 2014 08:24 AM

Last Updated: 10th February 2014 08:24 AM

While India has a legal and policy framework to ensure welfare of children, it falls behind South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives when it comes to achieving results in education, health and protection, according to a report.

‘The South Asian Report on the Child-friendliness of Governments,’ which was published recently by child rights advocacy groups, evaluates the efforts of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka towards fulfilling the obligations in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Of the eight nations, India is ranked on top for having done the most towards establishing and enabling legal and policy frameworks for children, closely followed by Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. However, India is ranked 7th in child health outcomes and 4th in education outcomes and child protection outcomes--a result of, “ineffective implementation of an enabling structural framework.”

India’s standing in the region has taken a hit in health, education and protection aspects. For example, India takes the last place when it comes to tackling malnutrition, behind Bangladesh (7), Afghanistan (6) and Pakistan (5).

“In Bangladesh and India, the results remain of serious concern, although both countries have done rather well on reducing stunting,” the report states.

“Almost eight million children in India have not yet been immunised against measles. Routine immunisation remains low in several areas due to lack of planning at the district level, there is a lack of funds to conduct outreach and poor supervision and monitoring systems to track progress,” the report observes.  On the education front, India is ranked 7th in the ‘quality of learning’ index. “The relatively poor quality of teaching in India is reflected in the performance of students: nearly half of the children in grade five are unable to read a second-grade text. Teachers’ absenteeism is another concern, as is the availability of trained teachers for pre-primary and primary education,” the report states.

India’s failure to arrest instances of child marriage, which was banned way back in 1929, is evident in the report, which ranks the country 6th behind Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan. Between 2005-2010, 47 per cent girls were married by 18, and between 2000-2010, 18 per cent were married off by 15.

“Most child marriages take place in rural areas and economic factors such as poverty and dowry, gender norms and expectations, concerns about girls’ safety and family honour, and the lack of educational opportunities for girls--are all factors contributing to the difficulty of ending the practice,” the report notes.

These results are not in line with the expected outcomes given that India spends $16326.94 million per annum, highest in South Asia, on education, health, social security, housing and community affairs.

Nagasimha G Rao, director, Child Rights Trust, says the biggest challenge children face is the attitude shown by leaders and parents. “India signed the UNCRC in 1992 and it was also ratified by way of making its articles a part of our laws. However, the problem is the attitude we show towards children who are always tomorrows citizens,” he said.

The report suggests revisiting the legal framework and ensuring the full translation of the CRC and its optional protocols into legally enforceable rights under national laws.


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