Better deal sought for children as nation goes to vote

Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI: With the election process under way, the organisation Child Rights and You, or CRY, has listed out issues that impact children’s lives but are not to be found in the election agenda of political parties.

CRY has pointed out to them that despite children’s organisations highlighting this gap, the parties continue to ignore children and their issues.

“As the nation goes to vote, we are reminding voters that one-fourth of the country – as many as 400 million citizens – will not vote because they are children. As voters and candidates, we are charged with the responsibility to see to it that their interests do not slip off the political radar,” CRY said.

With no right to choose their political leaders, children cannot directly ensure that 70 out of every 1,000 children born do not die each year, that every second child under five is not malnourished, that all children are in school and complete formal education and have access to adequate nutrition and equal opportunities and that children are protected from child labour, abuse and trafficking, it said.

CRY has said child rights could only become central to the political agenda if people chose to make it a priority by ensuring government accountability to actualise the rights. “So when you vote this time, voice the rights of children – think of children, think of promises we made to them in our Constitution to live a life of dignity, that must include food, health, shelter, education, protection and play.”

CRY has appealed to the electorate to hold candidates, political parties and policymakers accountable for child rights by demanding specific non-negotiable assurances from the government.

These include a universally applicable definition of a child as a person under the age of 18, help to remove discrepancies in policies and legislation, increasing government expenditure on children, particularly expenditure on health and education, and ensuring free and compulsory education to all children. The charter of child rights stresses the re-drafting of the Right to Education Bill to reflect the true spirit of children’s right to education and discouraging privatisation and commercialisation of education.

Provision of nutritious mid-day meals in primary schools, expansion of Integrated Child Development Services and prohibition of child labour are the other demands.

These demands can be realised only when larger issues linked to children’s rights are ensured: the prevention of lopsided development that induces the displacement of marginalised communities, amendment of the Special Economic Zone Act, 2005 to prevent misappropriation of land to ensure that the marginalised are not exploited, and establishment of secular practices in society and politics besides protection of human rights during counter-terrorism operations.

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