Saturday, November 14, 2009

Childrens Day!

Ok the main motivation for this post is that Sagarika Ghose replied to one of my tweets. But apart from the ego boosting reason for this post, there is a bigger issue staring at us. According to a UNICEF report 46% of the children in our country below the age of 6 months are malnourished. We aim to be a superpower, there are constant reports in the media about the rise of new India, the power of the new redefined Indian. Not debating all of it, but can we achieve total development without making sure that the benefits of the 9% GDP growth for which we are aiming percolate down to the weakest and poorest sections of our society.

We don't have any concrete form of food security in our country. The ration cards are misused, there is mass hoarding and the corruption at different levels. Rajiv Gandhi Once remarked that for every 1 rupee spent only 10 paisa reaches to the those for whom it is spent. We have schemes like Public distribution system, Mid day meals etc but they are either in name sake or if implemented they leave a lot to be desired. What lacks is the nutrition we provide to our children. The sanitation is at prehistoric levels in the interior parts of the country and the drinking water in most parts of the country is not fit for drinking.

Coming to the issue of education in our country. 71% males and 46% are literate ( there is a clear different in opportunities for different sexes, will come to it later). Even 99% literacy, once a pride of Kerela is no longer there. Our government is more interested in opening new IIT's and IIM's or increasing the quota for reserved candidates but nothing about primary education. It is even failing badly in his endeavors for higher education. We don't have adequate infrastructure or quality education in our primary schools. According to a world bank report 25% of school teachers in India skip work. Only 50% who are present actually work. Due to lack of a proper infrastructure most children don't continue their education and thus it indirectly feeds into the child labor problem.

Finally the issue about different opportunities given to the 2 sexes in our country. I am not sure what percent of the 46% of malnourished children are females but I am very sure that majority of them will be girls. Traditionally in Indian homes a girl is always told that she is equal to everybody but in face of constraints they are most of the times treated as second grade to their male counterparts. There is widespread infanticide in India. There are 93 girls for every 100 males in India. Even thought things like ultra sound are banned, dingy clinics in interior parts of the country are still conducting tests and committing these ghastly murders. In places like Punjab and Haryana there are hardly any brides for eligible bachelors. The girl child is India is less nourished, less educated and provided less opportunity than her male counterparts. Even those who make to schools of excellence have to compete in a highly male dominated chauvinistic environment. I have never said it, but I have always admired the girls in the Engineering colleges for the way they conduct themselves in such chauvinistic environments ( requires a separate post.)

So today we celebrate Childrens day. the same way we have celebrated for many years and the same way we would celebrate it for many years to come. But now is the time to move from functions and long speeches to actually take care of that child who tomorrow would be the future of this country. No child should be denied an opportunity. Who knows you might not be feeding the next Abdul Kalam, killing the next Kiran Bedi, not educating the next Indira Nooyi. As the tag line from a famous movie:

Every child is special.

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