Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Every second Indian child is malnourished: Report

Shreya Bhandary, TNN Nov 14, 2013, 04.41AM IST


MUMBAI: Every second child in India is malnourished; 79% children across the country are anaemic; and the child sex ratio is at the lowest ever with 914 girls for every 1000 boys. These are some of the findings in a report, released by Child Rights and You (CRY),that dwells on the abysmal state of children in the country.


According to the report, the national dropout rate at the elementary level is 40% despite the enactment of the right to education.

"Children are invisible citizens of this country. We have the largest population of kids in the world and yet there has been no national data to check the nutrition level of children since 2005. We are talking about various laws and policies that are being introduced as rights for children but are they availing the same?" asked Puja Marwaha, CRY CEO, after the report was released.

The report also highlights other problems —11.8% of children in India are engaged in some form of child labour and nearly 45% girls still get married before the age of 18 years. "We had to struggle to get national data on nutrition or child trafficking. Nobody has bothered to find out how and where kids are being sold for various reasons," she said.

Take the case of Maharashtra where almost half of the children under five years are stunted and nearly one-fifth are severely stunted. The child sex ratio in the state stands at 883 girls for every 1000 boys. According to the official estimate by the state education department in July 2012, close to 2.3 lakh children were out of school and this group primarily composed of children with disabilities and other disadvantages. "Even in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, the child sex ratio is very skewed," said Marwaha.

On the eve of the Children's Day, CRY launched a nationwide "Vote for Child Rights" campaign. It also unveiled the Child Rights Manifesto that calls for all political parties as well as voters to give top priority to children and commit to improving the plight. "We analysed the manifestos by various political parties during the last elections ... Our campaign calls for the citizens to show zero tolerance to any form of violation of child rights," said Kreeanne Rabadi, Regional Director, CRY.

The NGO has approached political leaders with an appeal to give priority to children's issues in their respective party manifestos.



Tuesday, 12 November 2013





Wednesday, 6 November 2013

India’s street kids fight back: with a broadsheet newspaper

·         By Mary-Ann Ochota

Shivani, 10, and her cousins beg in New Delhi's Lajpat Nagar market. Officially they don't exist.

In a dingy basement in New Delhi, a group of children take turns to explain their problems and listen to the advice of their peers.  A teenager in the corner takes notes.  It’s immediately clear that these aren’t regular schoolkids.

The first boy, in an oversize shirt and ragged trousers, explains how the recent monsoon downpour flooded his slum, one man died, and people are getting sick; the next boy describes how government operatives have torn down his family’s unauthorised shack.  One girl reports on some young factory workers who are having trouble getting their (illegal) wages from their boss, another describes how two children have been severely beaten by police officers in a local market.  These things don’t normally happen to children in India, unless you’re a street child.

India has the largest population of street children in the world.  There are at least 11 million of these kids, living or working on the streets, out of education, and not recognised officially in any way.  Most charities think the figure is probably closer to 20 million.

UNICEF estimate that only 40% of Indian babies are registered at birth, which means that every year, 10 million children are born into a legal no-man’s land – on paper, they don’t exist.

In the big cities, that can be a death sentence.  These kids aren’t counted on family food ration books, their parents can’t access healthcare for them, and although all Indian children are entitled to free education up to the age of 14, many schools demand proof of age and residence to secure admission.  Street children who don’t know how old they are and live in illegal slums, shacks or under flyovers, invariably miss out.

The editor and chief reporter of Children's Voice newspaper - the only paper written for and by Street Children in India

Vulnerable to traffickers and pimps looking for fresh meat, street kids are easy prey.  It’s common knowledge on the street that if you’re co-opted into a begging gang, they might put out an eye or amputate a foot in order to make you more valuable.  Runaways, abandoned kids and orphans are lured in with the promise of food, and somewhere to sleep.  They’re plied with weed and booze, or taught to sniff whitener – tippex – from a handkerchief.  They become putty in bad hands.

But the majority of children you see roaming India’s streets have at least some family. Money that should support education and relieve poverty doesn’t reach them, lost in the millefeuille of Indian bureaucracy, or siphoned off by unscrupulous ‘agents’ who take advantage of illiterate parents who can’t fathom the system.  And many parents prioritise immediate earnings over education. So the children are out of school, begging, scavenging or in shady workplaces.

Child labour isn’t illegal in India, but for children under 14 it should, in principle, be strictly controlled.  It’s not.  Often children are the main breadwinners for large families, working to support parents’ addictions, or trying to earn their share so that there’s some food in the pot each evening.

The Indian Government proposed a bill totally banning child labour last year, but it’s stalled and wasn’t debated in this parliamentary session.  The children I spoke to on the street believe that if child labour were to be banned, and the ban implemented, they would starve.  It’s all well and good when some bureaucrat says they should be in school, and their families helped, but these kids are pragmatic and world-wise, and they don’t believe it would ever happen the way it should.

Uneducated children inevitably become illiterate, innumerate adults and the depressing cycle rolls on.  And in India, many believe that it’s karma – destiny – that these kids are at the bottom of the pile.  Many of the kids believe it too.

Street children aren’t vote winners, and the problems that push these kids on to the streets, into hazardous work, crime, or into the grasp of traffickers and abusers, are messy and difficult to solve.

But there are some children hungry for change. They are empowered enough to fight back.  Backed by the Indian charity CHETNA, a federation of street and working children across four states in north India write and edit their own broadsheet newspaper.

Out every three months, Children’s Voice, Balaknama, is written in Hindi, and is as serious as newspapers come.  Full of case studies and campaigning articles about police brutality, child marriage and illegal child labour, it’s a tough read.

Knowing that the oldest members of staff are just 18, the youngest, 8, is sobering.  Vijay Kumar, chief reporter of Children’s Voice, knows the situation better than most journalists – he lives in a windowless slum room with five family members, and still considers himself a street child.

The editor of the paper, 18-year old Shanno, learned to read under a tree in an open-air charity class.  She now dreams of being a children’s lawyer, if only she and her widowed mother could find the fees for the course.

Some of the Children’s Voice reporters can’t read and write themselves yet – they dictate their stories to their friends.  Their first official recognition as ‘proper’ people is when they see their byline.  It’s a powerful experience.

Vijay feels driven to tell the stories that would otherwise not be heard, and to help more kids find their voices.  “Street children are like ghosts…no-one notices and no-one cares.  Our newspaper, Balaknama, means Children’s Voice…that’s what it gives us.  People need to listen.”

1.3 billion people live in India, and 60% are under 25 – when these young people do find a way to speak out about their own futures, it’s a powerful force for change.  Shanno and Vijay are at the head of a numerous and resilient army.

Unreported World: Slumkid Reporters is on Channel 4 this Friday 1st November at 7.30pm.

It will be available to view globally alongside additional content athttp://www.channel4.com/programmes/unreported-world/