"Invest In Us And Our Future": The Voices Of India's Children

TANMOY BHADURI
Tuesday, November 15,2016

Children constitute over a third of India’s total population and yet issues that confront them -- from malnourishment to access to education -- remain largely invisible, de-prioritized and mostly neglected. Whilst a number of laws, policies and programmes targeted at children have been floated over the years, child rights indicators have not improved at the rate they should have. Children, despite making up a significant chunk of the population and representing the future of this country, are entirely absent from the dominant discourse. Their voices, aspirations, dreams and desires are more often than not, relegated to the sidelines. In this photo essay, photographer TANMOY BHADURI turns his lens to children and details, in their own words, what’s important to them. Investing in children today is India’s best hope to break the cycle of poverty, inadequacy, malnutrition, abuse and violence.

 

“I want to feel safe in my Country”

Over the last ten years, the number of crimes against children has increased by more than 500%, from 14,975 in 2005 to 94,172 in 2015. The rate of crimes against children has shockingly increased by more than 15 times. Adequate human and financial resources should be invested towards establishing an effective system that prevents and protects children from neglect, abuse, violence and exploitation.

 

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“I want to stand on my feet before I marry”

29,18,774 children under the age of 14 were married in 2011 as against 66,649 in 2001, which is an increase of 35% in the last decade. It is unfortunate as when girls turn into child brides, they have to bear their own children at a young age. 4, 57,005 married children under 14 years of age, have become mothers. Access to secondary and higher secondary education and retention needs to be strengthened so that girl children complete their education.

 

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“I want to enjoy my childhood”

It is a sad scenario with over 10 million children working in our country. The Last ten year have seen only a 2.2% decline (12.67 million in 2001 to 10.12 million in 2011 . Amidst this skewed decrease we have ignored the fact that working children in the critical age group of 5-9 has gone up by 37%. The work participation rate for children aged 15-18 jumps to 23% which means nearly every fourth child in this age group is engaged in work. A child who is engaged in labour and related activities often, compromises on education and hence it is no surprise that close to 1.4 million child labourers in the age group of 7-14 cannot even write their names.

 

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“I don’t want to sleep on an empty stomach”

India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for the number of malnourished children. In 2005-‘06 70% of children below 5 years were anaemic and in 2015-‘16 it ranges from 38% to 78% across 17 states and UTs. Reasons for malnutrition occurrence are several and interplay between themselves, making it a complex issue. This needs to be addressed in a holistic and comprehensive manner which starts with investing in proper care of adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

 

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“I want a healthy life” 

Only when children remain healthy they can they flourish in terms of overall development and learning at school. We are still far away from reaching out targets of 100% immunization. The data from 17 states and UTs show that immunization still ranges from 53% to 84%.

 

“I need a doctor”

Children’s health needs can be adequately fulfilled with having a designated health professional to cater to their health needs. The shortfall of pediatricians in rural health infrastructure was an appalling 82% until recently in 2015 which is a decline of more than than 50% from 2005.

 

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“Make my existence ‘count’”

A birth registration certificate is a permanent and certified record of the child’s existence which is essential throughout the child’s life and even later. It contributes in forming a child’s core identity, helps smooth transition in different institutions viz early child care and school and moreover also ensures a child is accounted for in the protection system and prevents a child from slipping through the cracks into hazardous child labour. Although birth registration has increased, an estimated 22.5 million births were not registered in 2013.

 

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“I am a girl. Give me my right to live”

Census 2011 shows that child sex ratio has worsened substantially and is at its lowest ever with only 914 girls for every 1000 boys. We all need to come together to raise awareness on the importance of the girl child so that she is not seen as a liability but as an individual with potential and a productive member of the society, not just a caretaker.

 

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“I want to complete my schooling”

Out of every 100 children who are enrolled into school, only 72 children are able to complete Class VIII. There is further reason to worry as just 48 of these children complete class X and barely 33 children finish Class-XII at the right age. This is certainly a reflection of poor state of education in India, which can only be reversed if we ensure every child completes schooling by providing the right environment, provisions and opportunities.

 

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“Invest in ‘US’”

The child population in our country increased from 450.5 million in 2001 to 472.1 million and children continue to constitute around 40% of the country’s population. We demand the mainstreaming of children’s issues in every department, and the need for them to analyse how policies are impacting children while considering allocating budgets for children’s issues. Given the significant deficits in various development indicators regarding children, it is imperative that the government must allocate sufficiently for various programmes and schemes earmarked for children. The total Child Budget as percentage of the total Union Budget shows a declining trend since 2012-13 and it stands at only 3.32 percent in union budget 2016-17.

Komal Ganotra, Director, Policy, Research and Advocacy, CRY – Child Rights and You, says, “This is an appeal for governments, authorities, corporations and people to come together to uphold the rights of our children, in their own capacity, at every possible level. Investing in children today means that a country such as India has a chance to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, inadequacy, malnutrition, abuse and violence.”

About CRY (www.cry.org)

CRY – Child Rights and You (formerly known as Child Relief and You) is an Indian NGO that believes in every child’s right to a childhood – to live, to learn, grow and play. For over 30 years, CRY and its partners have worked with parents and communities to ensure Lasting Change in the lives of more than 20 lakh underprivileged children.



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