“Child is the father of man”-William Wordsworth. Children are our first priority not because they are the most vulnerable, but because the foundation for life long learning and human development are laid in the most crucial years of early childhood.
The child population (0-14 years), as per the 1991 census, accounts for 319.6 million (37.8 per cent), which is 153.85 million for female children.
2. Indian Constitution and Welfare of Children
While Article 15(3) empowers the State to make any special provision in favour of children; Article 24 prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in any factory or mine or other hazardous occupations; Article 39(4) (e) and (f) lay down that the State shall direct its policy in such a manner that the tender age of children is not abused and children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and childhood is protected against exploitation and moral and material abandonment; and Article 45 provides for free and compulsory education of all children up to the age of 14 years.
3. The Governments Policy towards Welfare of Children
The well-being of children has been a priority and also an integral part of the country’s development planning, launched in 1951.
In the initial years, the major responsibility of developing child care services had primarily rested with the voluntary sector, headed by the Central Social Welfare Board, set up in 1953. The Seventies marked a shift from welfare’ to ‘development’ of children.
A National Policy for Children was adopted in 1974 and a programme called Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) was launched in 1975 with an integrated approach to extend a package of 6 basic service i.e., health checkup, immunization, referral services, supplementary feeding, pre-school education and health and nutrition education for children up to 6 years and expectant and nursing mothers.
The National Policy on Education (1986) emphasized universal enrolment and retention of children, especially, the girl children. The Juvenile Justice Act (JJA) enacted in 1986 repealed the then existing Children Act, to deal effectively with the problem of Juvenile delinquents/vagrants and provide a framework for handling such children.
The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act (1986) were followed by the adoption of a National Policy on Child Labour (1987).
4. Different Schemes of the Government to Uplift the Status of Children Engaged in Juvenile
Welfare of Street Children
Survey of street children (Sponsored by the then Ministry of Welfare-UNICEF 1992-93) in eight major cities has indicated that a large number of street children suffer destitution, neglect, abuse and exploitation due to circumstances beyond their control.
With a view to supporting and strengthening voluntary organizations engaged in the welfare and development of street children, this scheme provides fund to them, of which 90 per cent of the cost is met by the Government of India and the remaining 10 per cent is borne by the concerned voluntary organization.
Integrated Programme for Street Children.
The expenditure incurred since the inception of the Scheme up to 1998-99 is Rs. 1,794.68 lakh. Expenditure under the scheme during 1998-99 was Rs. 409.32 lakh up to 14 February 1999.
Assistance to Voluntary Organizations for Social Defence Services.
Under this scheme, assistance is provided for undertaking programmes which are not covered under the existing schemes of the Ministry. A number of programmes are being supported for rehabilitation of children of sex workers.
National Plan of Action for Children
India is a signatory to the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children.
Balsevika Training Programme
It was initiated in 1961-62 to meet the requirement of trained personnel for the institutions implementing welfare programme for pre-school children. It gets 100 per dent financial assistance from Government of India.
5. Other Topics Relevant to the Upliftment of Destitute Children
The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund was created in December 1946 to provide massive emergency relief to the destitute young victims of World- War II. In 1953, the General Assembly extended its mandate indefinitely and its name was changed to United Nations Children Fund, the abbreviated UNICEF was retained.
World Summit for Children
Initiated by Canada, Egypt, Mali, Mexico, Pakistan and Sweden, it was held in New York on September 29-30-1990.
November, 14 is celebrated as Children’s Day every year in our country. It is the birth day of Jawaharlal Nehru, an ardent lover of children.
SAARC Decade of the Girl Child
Department of Women and Child Development has formulated a National Plan of Action for the SAARC Decade of the Girl Child (1991-2000 A.D.)
United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child
The UN’s General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November, 1989. The Convention seeks to protect children everywhere against exploitation, neglect and abuse. It draws attention to the four sides of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of every child. The Government of India ratified the Convention on 2 December 1992, representing a commitment to providing to its children “first call” on the natural resources.
6. Child Development and Ninth-Plan Working Children (Child Labor)
I. To enforce the ongoing legal (The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and other remedial cum rehabilitative measures to eliminate child labour not only by strengthening various instruments that prevent/combat the problem of child labour but also ensuring their effective implementation.
II. To organize suitable functional literacy/vocational training programmes and recreational facilities after working hours for the overall development of the working children.
Child Sex Workers (Child Prostitution)
I. To contain the social evil of child prostitution, action will be initiated to bring forth specific amendments in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (as amended in 1986) with stringent punishment for those involved in it.
II. To introduce a rehabilitation package for those weaned out/withdrawn from the profession not only to keep them away from profession but also to keep them tied with alternative developmental avenues.
I. To curb the growing problem of Street Children, the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 will be enforced more effectively.
II. Special priority to non-institutional services so as to restore the children either back to their own families or place them with foster families.
III. Non-institutional services for those who are destitute, parentless or whose parents are suffering from infectious/communicable diseases.
7. Five-Year Plan Objectives and Strategies
I. To place the young child at the top of the country’s developmental agenda with a special focus on the Girl Child.
II. To reaffirm its priority for the development of early childhood services as an investment in country’s Human Resource Development.
I. To institute a National Charter for Children ensuring that no child remains illiterate, hungry or lacks medical care.
II. Acknowledge that the first six years is crucial for the development of children. Therefore greater stress will be laid on reaching the young children below two years.
III. To arrest the declining sex ratio and curb its related problems of female foeticide and female infanticide and thus ensure “survival, protection and development of children”.
IV. To bring down the IMR below 60 and CMR below 10 by 2002 A.D.
V. To universalize the Nutrition Supplementary Feeding Programmes to fill the existing gaps in respect of both pre-school and school-children and expectant and nursing mothers with a special focus on the girl child and the adolescent girl.
VI. To universalize ICDS as the main-stay of NinthPlan for promoting the overall development of the young children especially the girl child and the mothers all over the country.
VII. To give special thrust on health, nutrition and education.
VIII. To develop linkages between the primary schools and of the child care services to promote educational opportunities for the girl child.