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42 mn Indian kids live in exploitative environments: expert

Jul 25, 2013

"These children need the full support of the state,” said Shantha Sinha, former chairperson of the Commission for the Protection of Child Rights.

Experts gathered at a conference on child and adolescent rights in India slammed successive governments for doing little to translate words into action in the furtherance of child and adolescent rights.

Termed as Children and Adolescents in India - A Critical Tights Agenda, the conference brought under its roof known advocates of child rights in the country who especially pointed out to the dearth of child protection measures the government has taken to secure children.

As the Public Health Foundation of India pointed out through its press release, the total government expenditure on child protection remains at just 0.034 per cent even at some 170 million children and adolescents continue to live in difficult circumstances.

Shantha Sinha, former chairperson of the commission for the protection of child rights set the tone for the conference saying, "There are 42 million children in the 14 to 18 years age group who are out of school, who live in exploitative environments lacking financial and personal security, and are vulnerable to early marriage and gender discrimination."

"These children need the full support of the state and its services to exercise their own agency and negotiate a path towards dignity and freedom," she said.

Bharti Ali, member of the HAQ Centre for Child Rights rued the absence of any legal definition for adolescents under Indian law as narrow definitions complement outdated laws.

Chipping in on the issue, Neera Burra, an advisor for Paul Hamlyn Foundation highlighted the dearth of initiatives for accountability on issues related to children, especially those engaged in child labour.

Market forces take advantage of unaccountability of the schooling system and this manifestation is evident as child labour booms in an insensitive society, she opined, arguing that the middle class that uses child labour is bereft of any moral courage in opposing it.

"Few mechanisms exist to ensure accountability," Neera Burra said, arguing for a climate where children would be the focus of public and civil society action towards their active citizenship.

Theresa Betancourt from the Harvard school of public health's FXB centre for health and human rights called for security models geared towards children, especially as issues around the rights of children get flagged only in times of a flash-point. "We talk about these issues only when there is a big issue," she said.

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