New Delhi, Dec 18: The Eleventh Plan (2002-07) document speaks of gruesome realities relating to the state of children in India, highlighting the fact that the country has the highest number of child labour and cataloguing the widespread violence, abuse and exploitation they are subjected to.
"Crimes against children continue to spiral with rising figures of kidnapping and abduction(3,508 in 2005), infanticide (187 in 2003) and foeticide(86 in 2005). Children's vulnerability to physical abuse is exposed in the grim statistics of child rapes which have increased from 2,532 cases in 2002 to 4,026 cases in 2005," the document says.
The document, cleared by the Full Planning Commission and the Cabinet, is slated for approval of the National Development Council(NDC) tomorrow.
It says porous borders and increasing poverty has increased "procuring, buying and selling" of girls for prostitution. Falling sex ratios and annihiliation of girl child, has led to an increase of child marriage.
The document is different from the earlier documents in so far as it deals in great detail with social sector services and analysis of the problems related with the sector in a comprehensive and indepth manner. In fact, of the three volumes relating to the Plan, one volume is devoted to the subject.
The document says more than 44,000 children go missing every year, of which more than 11,000 children remain untraced. Traditional forms of violence and abuse against children such as child marriage, economic exploitation and 'Devadasi' tradition still continue in many parts of the country.
"Further, physical and psychological punishment in the name of discipline is rampant and even culturally acceptable in schools and homes across the country", the Plan says.
Violent situations, circumstances like forced evictions, displacement due to development projects, war and conflict, communal riots and natural disasters, all take their toll on children and affect their physiological and social development.
The document expresses concern at the "voicelessness" of children, saying that in spite of legislations in the past, children have no right to be heard either at administrative or judical processes. This limits their access to information and to choice, and often to the possibility of seeking help outside their immediate circle. The Plan says all strategies for Child Rights and Development in the Eleventh Plan must be cognizant of the slowing decline in poverty, and an unsettling of traditional, pre-modern livelihoods and local economies. This has constrained the caring capacity of millions of families and impacted children. Cosmetic measures targetting only children and not their mileu are thus not enough to correct this situation.
The document says sexual abuse and violence in schools can be a hidden factor behind low retention rates. Violence can be behind many of the unexplained injuries that are treated at health centres, or even the cause of long- term disability. These links have to be recognised to ensure a holistic approach to child rights, particularly children's rights to protection.
The Plan underlines the strategies that will be adopted during the Eleventh Plan to ensure that every child enjoys his or her childhood and their rights without any fear or the need to work.
Some of these are: ---developing specific interventions to address malnutrition, neo-natal and infant mortality; ---creating child friendly protective services; ----reviewing all legal provisions for children and undertaking necesssary amendments based on international commitments; ---- undertaking a child rights review of all existing development policies and plans to assess their impact on children and to ensure that children are not further marginalsied; ---- recognising that creches and day care centres are important for child development, empowerment of women and retention of girls in schools; --- ensuring institutional care to those children who need it most; --- involving Panchayati Raj Institutions, voluntary organisations and urban local bodies in implementation, monitoring and evaluation by devolving powers and resources to the Panchayat level, and providing them with technical and administratiive support: -- recognising "Child Budgeting' as an important policy analysis tool to undertake development investments for children and identifying gaps in resource investment and utilisation: ---- strengthening capacity of families and communities, police, judiciary, teachers , PRI representatives, bureaucrats and other implementation personnel who deal directly with children.
All in all, the Eleventh Plan takes a big step forward in the area of child rights. It is entrenched in a rights framework that views children as agents, not recipients.