‘Data suggest that State has the most unequal society in the country '

The State should prepare a ‘State of Kerala's Children' report, Additional Chief Secretary and Director of the Institute of Management in Government S.M. Vijayanand has proposed.

This could be taken up in the 12 Plan, and a framework for the same could be formed at the local level by selecting and studying children's issues in select panchayats, Mr. Vijayanand suggested, at a meeting organised by the Unicef here for the State-wide release of its report, State of the World's Children – 2012, here on Thursday.

The report was released by Social Welfare Principal Secretary K.M. Abraham, who handed over its first copy to Mr. Vijayanand.

He suggested that the State initiate the concept of ‘child-friendly cities'. “Urban planning should become pro-children. With the help of Unicef, the urban planning department should conceptualise a child's ‘Right to City' from the spatial planning angle,” Mr. Vijayanand said.

Kerala, despite its claim to having an egalitarian culture, has not been very pro-active regarding the welfare of migrant labourers or children, he pointed out. The exploitation of migrant children as cheap labour or the abusive and vulnerable situations in which these children live is yet to become a priority for the State.

Though it would appear from the outside that the children in urban areas have a far better deal as far as access to safe drinking water, health and nutrition and education is concerned, the social exclusion and deprivation of children in urban areas, especially slums, have remained invisible.

Pockets of deprivation

According to national-level data, Kerala positions itself as the most unequal society and this inequality is far more dangerous than poverty, Mr. Vijayanand pointed out. Kerala's peculiarity has been that it has pockets of deprivation which has remained the same — the tribal belt of Attappady, for instance — for the past 50 years. The growing sense of loneliness among children, the problem of malnutrition and reducing immunisation coverage are new challenges before the State. Despite all shortcomings, Kerala has been far ahead of other States in introducing child welfare initiatives but the challenge was to synergise and scale up these initiatives, Mr. Vijayanand said.

Satish Kumar, Chief of the Unicef for Kerala and Tamil Nadu, pointed out that the State had been witnessing rapid urbanisation. The Unicef report talks about the problems of urbanisation faced by millions of children across the world and how strategies based on the concept of equity are needed to reduce urban poverty and exclusion faced by children.