Empowering literally means to ‘put in’ or ‘to cause’ power as derived from its Latin roots. The act of empowering children is a process of guiding them to feel and believe that they are powerful now as well as creating optimum conditions that mirror back to them these concepts. Government has initiated various projectsand programmes to empower the children. Present paper aims to discuss the National Plan of Action for Children, 2016.
History at a Glance
India has passed various childcentric legislations such as the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act (2000) and the new Act of 2015 keeping in line with standards of care and protection required in present time, establishment of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) (2005), the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006), the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2009), and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act (2012). The Government is implementing large number of schemes and programmes for children. Notable among them are Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS, 1975), Swachh Bharat Mission (Total Sanitation Campaign, 1999 and Swachh Bharat Mission, 2014), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA, 2000), National Health Mission (NHM, 2005), Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS, 2009), National Skill Development Mission (NSDM, 2015) and many others. The National Nutrition Mission (NNM) is soon to be re-launched to address key issues of under-nutrition in a comprehensive way. The Government is also undertaking gender and child budgeting to ensure adequate resource allocation for women and children. While some “Initiatives of the Government, like Mahatma Gandhi
National Employment Guarantee Act do not directly relate to children, they significantly affect children’s condition. The benefits of MNREGA are extended to them by developing better infrastructure at community level through convergence, and empowering vulnerable households by providing them employment in their own village. In recent years, the most important policy initiative taken by Government of India has been adoption of the National Policy for Children 2013 which reaffirms commitment to inclusive development and protection of all children and declares them to be a ‘unique and supremely important national asset’.
Policy Framework for Children
- National Policy for Children, 1974
- Promotion and adoption of International Year of the Child (IYC), 1979
- National Policy for Education, 1986
- Adoption of 1990s’ World Child Survival and Development Goals, 1990
- Accession to UNCRC, 1992
- National Nutrition Policy 1993
- National Health Policy, 2002
- National Charter for Children, 2003
- National Plan of Action for Children, 2005
- Adoption of Guidelines for NCPCR, 2011 and 2015
- National Policy for Children 2013
- National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy 2013
- India New Born Action Plan 2014
The National Policy for Children, 2013
The National Policy for Children 2013 was adopted by the Government
on April 26, 2013. It adheres to the constitutional mandate and guiding principles of UN CRC and reflects a paradigm shift from a ‘need-based’ to a ‘rights-based’ approach. It emphasises that the State is committed to take affirmative measures to promote equal opportunities for all children and to enable all children in its jurisdiction to exercise all the constitutional rights. The National Policy for Children 2013 recognizes that:
- A child is any person below the age of eighteen years;
- Childhood is an integral part of life with a value of its own;
- Children are not a homogenous group and their different needs need different responses, especially the multi-dimensional vulnerabilities experienced by children in different circumstances;
- A long term, sustainable, multisectoral, integrated and inclusive approach is necessary for the overall and harmonious development and protection of children.
This Policy is meant to guide and inform all laws, policies, plans and programmes affecting children. As children’s needs are multi-sectora! and interconnected, and require collective action, the Policy aims for purposeful convergence and strong coordination across different sectors and levels of governance; active engagement and partnerships with al! stakeholders; setting up of a comprehensive and reliable knowledge base: provision of adequate resources; and sensitization and capacity development of all those who work for anc with children.
Some other issues are :
- The best interest of the child is a primary concern in all decisions and actions affecting the child
Integral to the well-being of all children is the assurance of their safety and security.
- Recognition of every child’s worth,. and provision for this critical protection thus stand at the heart of the Government’s present resolve to formulate and carry out a new plan to benefit all children in the country.
- In setting the course of national action for the good of children, India expresses its awareness that childhood safety and security are essential components of change and progress across and above all sectors of development.
- The National Policy renews and reaffirms India’s commitment to all the children it is pledged to care for.
The National Plan of Action for Children, 2016
The National Plan of Action for Children 2016 succeeds the Plan of Action adopted in 2005. The previous plan had identified 12 key areas keeping in mind priorities and the intensity of the challenges that require utmost and sustained attention :
- Reducing Infant Mortality Rate.
- Reducing Maternal Mortality Rate.
- Reducing Malnutrition among children.
- Achieving 100% civil registration of births.
- Universalization of early childhood care and development and quality education for all children achieving 100% access and retention in schools, including ECCEs.
- Complete abolition of female foeticide, female infanticide and child marriage and ensuring the survival, development and protection of the girl improving Water and sanitation coverage in both rural and urban areas.
- Addressing and upholding the rights of Children in Difficult Circumstances.
- Securing for all children all legal and social protection from all kinds of abuse, exploitation and neglect.
- Complete abolition of child labour with the aim of progressively eliminating all forms of economic exploitation of children.
- Monitoring, Review and Reform of policies, programmes and laws to ensure protection of children’s interests and rights.
- Ensuring child participation and choice in matters and decisions affecting their lives.
Programmes and Schemes in the NPAC 2016
- Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.
- Dindayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme.
- Integrated Child Development Services (Including SABLA and Kishori Shakti Yojana).
- Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahayog Yojana.
- Integrated Child Protection Scheme.
- Integrated Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan.
- Janani SurakshaYojana.
- janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram.
- Mid-Day Meal.
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
- National Health Mission.
- National Nutrition Mission.
- National Rural/Urban Drinking Water Mission.
- National Mental Health Programme.
- National AIDS Control Programme.
- Pradhanmantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana.
- Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram.
- Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme.
- Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram.
- Sarva Shiksha Mission.
- Swachh Bharat Mission.
- Scholarship Schemes.
- Schemes under National Trust Act.
The NPAC 2005 was framed for a period of five years. While no formal evaluation of the plan has been undertaken, many of the goals remain unfulfilled, like reducing IMR to 30 per 1000 live births and MMR to 100 per 100,000 live births; 100% coverage for rural sanitation, universalization of early childhood care and education services, elementary education and complete abolition of child labour and child marriage by 2010. The Government of India is committed to achieving these objectives; the new National Policy reaffirms this as a national mandate, and the new plan is set to carry it forward to practical realisation. The NPAC 2016 takes into account the current priorities for children in India. It is an initiative to further strengthen and activate the implementation and monitoring of national constitutional and policy commitments and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It provides a road-map that links the Policy.
Objectives of Actionable Programmes and Strategies
In alignment with the NPAC 2013, it affirms the State’s responsibility to provide for all children in its territory and jurisdiction before, during and after birth, and throughout the period of the growth and development, up to the age of 18 years. The plan takes due note of the importance of strengthening the ability of communities and families to support children and to ensure their overall survival, well-being, protection and development. The focus of the NPAC is to reach and serve the ‘Last Child First’. This is a commitment ta give first rank to the children who are most vulnerable due to gender, socio-cultural and economic or geographic exclusion, including other vulnerable children- street children, children of migrant workers, sex workers and those suffering from HIV/AIDS or other diseases. In this context, it aims at establishing an effective coordination among all stakeholders, including Ministries, departments and civil society organisations in the planning, implementation, monitoring and assessment of all policies and programmes adopted for children. The NPAC states the initiatives to be taken by various sectors and services in a time-bound manner to achieve targets ensuring to all children their right to survival, dignity, health, nutrition, education, development, protection and participation. The Goals and Targets are in alignment with National Goals and targets envisaged for children. It also provides a framework for the States and Union Territories to develop their own state plans so as to protect children’s rights and promote their development.
Key Priority Areas of NPAC 2016
- Survival, Health and Nutrition.
- Education and Development (including Skill Development).
- The NPAC 2016 attempts to address key issues and concerns identified in each key priority area. The key issues have been identified based on analysis of existing data on child survival, health, nutrition and protection as well as through consultations held with children themselves.
Status of Children in India
- Maternal Mortality 167 per 100,000 live births (SRS 2011-13).
- Neonatal Mortality 28 per 1000 live births (SRS 2013).
- Infant Mortality 40 per 1000 live births (SRS 2013).
- U-5 Mortality 49 per 1000 live births (SRS 2013).
- 48% of neo-natal deaths due to prematurity and low birth weight (SRS 2010-13).
- 45-4% Mothers received 4 or more ANCs (RSOC 2013-14).
- 78-7% Institutional Delivery (RSOC 2013-14).
- 39-3% Neonates received PNC within 48 hours of delivery/ discharge (RSOC 2013-14).
- 38-7% of children 0-59 months stunted; % higher for SC/ST (RSOC 2013-14).
- 15-1% of children 0-59 months wasted; % higher for SC /ST (RSOC 2013-14).
- 29-4% of children 0-59 months underweight; % higher for SC/ST (RSOC 2013-14).
- 6% children 0-23 months breastfed immediately/within 1 hour of birth (RSOC 2013-14).
- 65-3% children 12-23 month fully immunized; % lower for SC/ST (RSOC 2013-12).
- 49-84% HHs practice open defecation (Census 2011).
- Net Enrolment Ratio at Elementary Level: 88-45% (U-DISE 2014- 15).
- Net Enrolment Ratio at Secondary level: 48.46% (U-DISE 2014- 15).
- Drop-out rates at Elementary level 36-3% (Educational Statistics at a Glance, MOHRD; 2014).
- Drop-out rates for SC and ST at Elementary level 38-8% and 48.2% respectively (Educational Statistics at a Glance, MOHRD; 2014).
- 33 million children in the age group of 5-18 years engaged in the labour force (Census 2011).
- 30-3% women in the age 20-24 married before 18 years (RSOC 2013-14).
- Rise in rate of crimes against children as well as committed by children (NCRB 2014).
- Approximately 40 per cent of the reported offences against children are sexual offences (NCRB 2014).
The NPAC is committed to focusing on the ‘last’ and least-served children, across the full span of childhood, to bring them into the radius of the plan provisions and safeguards. It will assure special attention, care and protection to all children of socially, economically or otherwise disadvantaged groups, such as SC/ST children, children with disabilities or other special needs, street children, child labour, trafficked children, children affected or displaced by natural hazards and climate conditions or by civil disturbance, orphans and children without family support, or in institutions, or children affected by HIV/AIDs, leprosy and other socially stigmatizing conditions. The plan will give due attention to the inter-relatedness of deprivations and needs, and thus of measures to address each of them. The Ministry of Women and Child Development engaged with children to incorporate their voices in the NPAC 2016.
Issues in NPAC 2016
The following issues were raised
by children during various consultations held :
- Need information regarding different schemes and programmes for children.
- Need information regarding their own health, growth and development and on specific issues like trafficking, violence, abuse.
- Need information regarding disasters, everyday hazards and risks and safety measures.
- Need to use various forms of interactive media to increase awareness.
- Safe and adequate spaces for play, sports and recreation for both boys and girls, adequate sports facilities in schools.
- Girls & boys should be taught self defence.
- Child-friendly and free transport system: special buses for children during school hours.
- Greater outreach of quality education, age-appropriate vocational training and medical services for all children.
- Tracing missing children should also be a priority, special camp? should be made for these groups
- Disability certificates should be easily available.
- More institutions required for •children with disabilities with adequately trained staff.
- Vocational and technical training and career counseling for adolescents which will ensure thei: employability.
- Children in the age group of 15- 18 in all CCIs to be linked tc vocational courses so that they have a source of income ar.c good standard of living after 1′ years.
- Guardianship and family care for each child without a family.
- Parents and teachers need to be oriented to listen to children and take their views seriously.
- Spaces to voice their concern? regarding service delivery, and or behaviour of teachers or heal:: service providers.
- Awareness camps, street plays, short films on social evils and their disadvantages should be organised and shown in each and every village, especially with the parents.
- Need freedom of speech and expression
- Opportunity to participate in various development initiatives concerning them and chance to showcase their own leadership skills and qualities.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to spearhead the campaign to improve the child sex ratio by launching the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme in January this year, it seemed like the harbinger of better policies for women and children in the country. Just a month later, the government slashed its budget for the Ministry of Women and Child Development by more than half from the ? 21,193 crore available in 2015. Towards the end of the year, the Rajya Sabha passed the juvenile justice bill, bringing down the age at which juvenile offenders could be tried as adults from 18 to 16. While the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 mandated all workplaces to set up internal complaint cells, no mechanism is in place to even collate data on this. The recent UNDP report on Gender Inequality Index shows India lagging behind war-torn Syria and Iraq and every South Asian neighbour barring Afghanistan.
The Census (2011) data showed a significant declining trend in the Child Sex Ratio (CSR), calculated as number of girls for every 1000 boys between age group of 0-6 years, with an all time low of 918 in 2011 from 976 in 1961. The decline in CSR has been unabated since 1961. This is an alarming indicator for women empowerment. It reflects both pre birth discrimination manifested through gender biased sex selection, and post birth discrimination against girls. The decline is widespread across the country and has expanded to rural as well as tribal areas. Alarmed by the sharp decline, the Government of India has irttroduced
Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) programme to address the issue of decline in CSR in 100 gender critical districts. Coordinated & convergent efforts are needed to ensure survival, protection and education of the girl child. The Overall Goal of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme is to Celebrate the Girl Child & Enable her Education. The objectives of the Scheme are as under :
- Prevent gender biased sex selective elimination.
- Ensure survival & protection of the girl child.
- Ensure education of the girl child. The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) initiative has two major components : (i) Mass Communication Campaign and (ii) Multi-sectoral action in 100 selected districts (as a pilot) with adverse CSR, covering all States and UTs.
Proposals are under way to increase maternity leave in government services from six months to eight months. For those in the private sector, the labour department has so far agreed to raise it to only six on the grounds that a longer maternity leave will adversely affect the employ- ability of women. Also, under way is a legally enforceable model prenuptial agreement that looks at ensuring maintenance for women in case they are abandoned by their spouses or terminate their marriage for any other reason. While, on one hand, the JJ Bill has introduced a provision for inter-country adoption, the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill is expected to disallow foreigners from hiring surrogate mothers, raising fears of commercial surrogacy being driven underground. Schemes for women may get a boost, including setting up of one-stop centres in states to address the issue of gender violence as well as a 24- hour women’s helpline in addition to proposals by the Home Ministry. The ministry has also decided to harness technology to provide for panic buttons in mobile phones. A report is expected soon from an inter-ministerial panel studying ways to crack down on fraudsters who con women or run extortion rackets through
matrimonial websites. Over the next year, plans are also afoot to digitise the work of 13-46 lakh anganwadis working under the government’s flagship Integrated Child Development Scheme programme for fighting lack of nutrition among children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. RDafpan
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- Non-Democratic : Caste is non-democratic because it does not favour equality between different castes, creed and colour. It creates obstacles in the way of lower caste fellows to come up in the society and develop their total faculties.
- Denies Social Progress : Caste system is based on Karma theory. People feel that their destiny is fixed and they cannot change their economic status. This leads to a state of inertia which kills their initiative and enterprise. It is an obstacle in the way of social and economic progress.
The advent of M. K. Gandhi in Indian politics brought the movement of uplifting lower castes to national scene. In 1917, the ‘All India Congress’ passed a resolution for removing the disabilities imposed on lower castes. In 1921, the ‘All India Congress’, again appealed to the Hindus for removal of untouchability and uplift of lower castes’. Thus, we find that several efforts were made for removal of untouchability and betterment of lower castes prior to Indian Independence. It brought some relief to these castes. After Independence, untouchability has been legally banned. Yet we find that the condition of these castes has not improved very much. One primary cause of it has been that whatever advantages were provided to them were grabbed by a minority among them who were educated and economically well-off and they then formed a distinct class of themselves. Unless the economic lot of lower castes is improved, their members cannot expect to gain social or religious upliftment. Besides, enlightened education should be provided to them so that these classes understand their rights and make self-efforts for improving their lot.
‘The laws of science do not distinguish between the past and the future. Steven.”