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Updated: December 18, 2012 11:27 IST

Keeping her in mind

Aarti Dhar
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Protect the smile: Developing a Children's Code. Photo: S. Subramanium
The Hindu
Protect the smile: Developing a Children's Code. Photo: S. Subramanium

To address the rights issue and the skewed sex ratio, girl child-friendly policies get an extra thrust in the 12 Plan document, to be approved formally by this month-end

The 12 Plan document of the Planning Commission, to be formally approved this month-end, has recommended setting up of a high level inter-ministerial committee on ‘Care and Protection of the Girl Child’ which will constitute the institutional mechanism for mobilising and monitoring multi-sectoral interventions for addressing the adverse child sex ratio.

The Commission has also set a target of making 80 per cent or more panchayats, districts and cities child-friendly in the next five years and to ensure that all children receive a protective environment at the family and community level and through institutional mechanism.

The other monitorable targets include improving the child sex ratio from 914 in 2011 to 950 by 2017, preventing and reducing child under-nutrition (percentage of underweight prevalence in children 0–3 years) by 50 per cent and bringing down anaemia in girls and women by half.  

The girl child specific district plan of action will be developed through decentralised planning processes, involvement of panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) and partnership with civil society organisations. These will also link with the proposed pilot interventions planned by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj to award panchayats that improve the child sex ratio and enhance care and protection of the girl child. These have been proposed as Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Awards.

With progressive devolution of powers to PRIs and an increasing number of States requiring 50 per cent reservation for women in PRIs, the focus is now on making planning process more child friendly at the grass roots level.

The time bound national strategy will bring together the Centre, the States and the civil society for urgent concerted action. The inter-ministerial committee will also link with and mentor State Task Forces which will develop State Programmes of Action across the country.  

Key child related policies and legislations will be developed and/or strengthened to create the enabling policy environment needed to fulfil children’s rights. This includes the development of a comprehensive Children’s Code, harmonising and updating different legal provisions for children, with uniformity in the definition of ‘children’ and creating more effective mechanisms for child sensitive and child friendly jurisprudence.

The Planning Commission believes involving children and encouraging their participation in all decisions related to programmes and policies meant for them is the key to institutionalising a child rights framework within the country. Children must be provided with an environment wherein they are aware of their rights; possess the freedom and opportunity to fully and freely express their views in accordance with their age and maturity; and that their views, especially those of the girl child and of children from minority groups or marginalised communities, are respected. 

During the 12th Plan, making information on child rights, laws and policies available and accessible to all children in accordance with their age and maturity will be a priority. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) will be the nodal agency to develop different models, undertake research to develop monitorable indicators of child participation and document best practices in child participation. The models will include building on the experience with Baal Panchayats and Baal Sabhas, complementing child friendly panchayats.

As State Child Rights Commissions have not been set up in all States, the NCPCR will also consider setting up representative offices to cover all regions of the country, to ensure access to services to children and to address cases of child rights violations. 

Under the restructured Integrated Child Development Scheme, the anganwadi centres would be repositioned a vibrant, child friendly centre (Baal Vikas Kendra) which will ultimately be owned by women in the community This will have expanded/redesigned services, extended duration (six hours), with an additional anganwadi worker provided initially in 200 high burden districts and with piloting of creche services in five per cent of AWCs. These would function as the first village outpost for health, nutrition, early learning and other women and child related services.  

The re-designed ICDS services will include a new component of child care and nutrition counselling for mothers of children under three years. Enhancing nutritional impact with revised nutrition and feeding norms; ensuring provision for nutritious, freshly cooked, culturally appropriate meal, (morning) snack and Take Home Rations are included in this initiative. The 12th Plan proposal also recommends constitution of a National Task Force on Childhood Disability, setting up of Childhood Disability Resource Centres.

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