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“India needs to take care of its children”

Olympia Shilpa Gerald
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Dependence on foreign funding must be minimised, says NGO chief

Siddhartha Kaul, prseident, SOS Children's Village International, at Kirumpakkam SOS children's village on Monday.Photo: G.Krishnaswamy
Siddhartha Kaul, prseident, SOS Children's Village International, at Kirumpakkam SOS children's village on Monday.Photo: G.Krishnaswamy

India must launch development programmes to care for its underprivileged children and minimise its dependence on foreign funds, said Siddhartha Kaul, president of SOS Children’s Villages, an international organisation which works for child protection and welfare in more than 130 countries.

“Funds from foreign countries supporting organisations working for the underprivileged children here have diminished in the last three years. The economic slowdown is only one of the reasons. The governments must take care of children,” Mr. Kaul told The Hindu , during his visit to Children’s Village in Puducherry.

Whenever the issue of funds for child welfare were raised in international forums, the counter question was that how come the governments were not able to look after its children when the country was doing economically well. NGOs working for children in developing nations like Brazil and China also face the same question, he said.

Founded by Hermann Gmeiner after World War II, the organisation supports orphaned children and those abandoned during various calamities by establishing communities where a foster mother cares for a group of children. The villages in India are funded by private agencies and individuals, most of them from abroad. The cost for care of one child is estimated to be Rs.5,000 to Rs. 7,000, including education, electricity, medical and other expenses. The State gives a grant of around Rs.850 per month for care of orphaned children. “But the sum has remained the same for many years and not much can be done with it,” says Mr. Kaul. Also, these payments are made annually and require the guardian or organisation to apply afresh every year.

Other than financial support, State governments should facilitate administrative procedures to ensure orphaned and abandoned children are benefited. “Do you know how long it takes to get a birth certificate for a child in India, particularly one that has lost both her parents?” he asked. Organisations that work with children spend unnecessary time and energy on administrative procedures rather than utilising it for child welfare measures, he lamented. “A birth certificate or an identity for the child is the first step. Without it, it is not easy to access schemes for these children.”

Keeping in mind that India’s demographics are changing and the nation is getting younger, more development programmes that protect child rights are required. “The image of India abroad has changed. This is the first Asian country to have sent a mission to Mars,” he said, indicating the need to focus more on issues related to children and women.

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