Rajasthan first state to come up with Child policy: Official

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New Delhi, Nov 24 (UNI) Rajasthan has become the first state to have a child-specific policy which aims to counter the high prevalence of child marriage, female infantide, foeticide and child labour in the state.

Stating this, Mukta Arora, Additional Director, Woman and Child department, Rajasthan, said this policy which was passed last month, intends to create a safe, secure and conducive environment ensuring each child has a right to be born, survive and grow.

Ms Arora said the policy would address issues of health, nutrition education, protection rights of the girl child and children with special needs upto the age of 18 years. She said the policy would also empower children by making them aware of their rights.

She was speaking at the three-day national consultations held in the capital on mainstreaming child rights organised by Centre for Health Education, Training and Nutrition Awareness (CHETNA).

But rights activists participating in the workshop expressed dismay that in spite of several forward looking government policies and civil society initiatives, the status of children in India was so dismal.

''Just how many children, who constitute 42 per cent of India's population, know their rights? Considering that one out of 16 children die before they attain the age of one, and one out of 11 die before they are five years old, it is clear that not many children have the opportunity to know their rights,'' said Ila Vakharia of the CHETNA.

With the female sex ratio being third lowest in Gujarat, after Punjab and Delhi, girls in the state are the worst affected.

According to Central Registration Survey data, 2007-08, it is 882 females per 1000 males. It was 920 females for 1000 males in the 2001 census.

In fact, 1,08,500 girls go missing in Gujarat every year.

Ms Vakharia said this prompted CHETNA to investigate pre-birth sex selection and elimination of the girl child in Gujarat from November 2007 to August this year.

Outlining its findings, she said that 18.7 per cent families faced problems in getting their sons married due to unavailability of marriageable girls.

Within this group, it was Patel and Chaudhary castes (44.8 per cent) and other backward castes (31.3 per cent) that were facing more problems compared to other castes, 42.6 per cent brought brides from other castes outside the district or state to solve the problem and 27.8 per cent reported that men have remained unmarried.

Many said that they send their sons to America so that they can get married easily.

According to Dr Ranawat, family planning consultant, Gujarat government, the highest number of sex selective abortions took place in districts like Rajkot and Surat where the rich communities resided.

He spelt out how the partnership between the state government and NGOs like CHETNA was changing the sex ratio scenario in the state.

''All of us are aware of the challenges the country is facing in terms of declining sex ratio due to a wide spread practice of pre-birth sex selection and elimination of the female foetus,'' said A R Nanda, executive director, Population Foundation of India.

Mr Nanda, who inaugurated the consultations, stressed that there was a need to understand that the approach adopted to take care of children from birth would determine India's future growth and prosperity.

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