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Focus on child development: Economist

Written by: Staff
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Hyderabad, Apr 7 (UNI) Eminent economist Jayati Ghosh said the cost of one nuclear bomb could pay for four budgets of universalisation of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme and only political will was required to make this come true.

Participating in the three-day convention on the 'Children's Right to Food' which began here today, Prof Ghosh said while India's strength lay in its very large young population, little was being done for their welfare.

''It is very necessary to regularise and improve facilities for which money is not a problem,'' she said pointing out to the vast amount spent on Defence. One nuclear bomb can pay for four budgets of universalisation of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme. What is required is political will to make this come true.'' While there has been some progress, the situation still remains grim, she felt. Quoting figures, Prof Ghosh pointed out that 47 per cent of India's pre-school children were undernourished so cannot even grow properly. In Brazil, the figure was only six per cent and in Zimbabwe, it was 13 per cent.

Only 39 per cent of India's children in this age group are immunized while the figure for Nepal is 66 per cent and Bangladesh, 73 per cent. Gender inequality persisted, especially in the north and east.

Magsaysay awardee and child rights activist Shanta Sinha spoke on the need to celebrate the birth of every child and accord dignitgy to the mother.''If all children get their rights, the power balance will change'', she observed.

Addressing the issues of hunger and starvation, T Sundaraman, Director, State Health Resource Centre, Chattisgarh, spoke of the 'South Asian enigma,' on why countries with lower GDPs were doing better than India. He spoke on how malnutrition precipitated disease and how disease led to malnutrition.

Quoting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Planning Commission Member Syeda Hameed said India's IMR and MMR rates were ''the bleakest marks against us.'' Dr Hameed also assured she would see to it the concerns expressed in the convention were addressed in the approach paper to the XI Plan.

UNI ASJ TM RAI2121

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