Hunger affects each one of us but it affects the children all the more. The adult need the food mainly for their sustenance but the children need it also for their physiological growth.
Stunted growth or sub ideal growth of malnourished children is well known but what is seen apparently is the affected physical growth of the bone and muscles while proportional growth of all organs is affected, which cannot be seen by all.
Hunger not only harms the individual physically and physiologically but emotionally and psychologically as well. When one is hungry then every cell of the body is under stress and their productivity is at the least. It is well known saying in our country that Bhuke Pet Bhajan Na Hoy Gopala.
There is a paradoxical situation in India. At one hand, over a third (40%) of the food produced in India is wasted according to United Nations Development Programme and on other hand, one third of the children are malnourished. According to Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 2019, India is at 102nd position, behind its neighbours Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
India is currently second largest producer of food grains globally, hence enough food is available in country in spite of the many odds but because of poor purchasing power, people are unable to buy the available food products in the open market. According to 2011 census, nearly a quarter of population (22%) is living below poverty line.
It has been proven that diarrhoea and respiratory tract infection are two leading causes of death of under-5 years of age children in India. It has been proved scientifically that malnourished children are more prone to all kind of infection including tuberculosis because they are lack of adequate body resistance to fight with the infection. Nutrition related factors contribute almost a half (45%) of deaths in children under-5 years of age.
Infection and malnourishment is a vicious circle. If we want to improve the health of the children then we have to educate the parents and the families to give the better nutrition.
According to 2011 national census of India, out of total child population of nearly 260 million under-14 years of age group, 10.1 million are working as child labourers. Child labour problem is not only existing in India but all over the world particularly in Asian, African Central and South American countries. UNICEF estimates that Indian has the highest number of child labour in the world, while Sub-Saharan African countries have the highest percentage of child labour.
Though the child labour and regulation act was passed in 1986 and later on amended in 2016 but in spite of that the practice of child labour has not been abolished completely, though it has been reduced.
About 70% of child labour is involved in agriculture and its related sector. It is not only in our country but this trend exists in almost in all cottage industries in poor and developing countries all over the world. Millions of children are employed by roadside food vendors (dhabas), small hotels and restaurants in India.
The practice of child labour is prevalent all over country but type of child labour depends upon the geographical area of nation. Child labour is common in small shed operation in unorganised sectors like firework, silk, mining, carpet and bidi industries etc. An official estimate for child labour working as domestic labour is more than 2.5 million while NGO’s estimates the figure to be 20 million.
If the cause of the child labour is analysed then the main cause seems to be over population because those family which are having more children are mainly poor and illiterate and ultimately this poverty and illiteracy are forcing the parents to send their children for child labour. It has been seen that parents who are poor but having a single child or two children are unlikely to force their children for child labour.
Sexual assault: The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2019 seeks to protect children from sexual offence such as sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography.
Though the punishment for such offence is imprisonment between seven years to life, and a fine but even this act is unable to control this heinous crime. One out of three girls is facing some sort of sexual offense in form of physical, emotional or verbal in nature in India. Such offences are happening almost daily in our country.
It seems that sexual offence in India by perpetrator is usually due to hostility against the victim or victim family which is more common against poor families and in rural and remote areas. It seems it is done to humiliate the victims emotionally and socially. It was reported in a television programme that a rape has been reported in a 9 month old girl. It is so painful to hear such incidences.
Health education and nutrition are the fundamental needs of all individual irrespective of caste, creed, region and religion. They are inter related and are the foundation stones for the growth of the individual as well as the nation.
Long time back all these three thing were available free of cost but in current time one has to buy them and for that one need the money which can be earned only thought the employment which could be formal or informal. This need of the employment is forcing the trend of child labour especially in poor, illiterate and in big families.
The trend of child labour still exists because employers prefer children because they have to pay less to them and children can be forced to do the work for more time and can easily be lured for other undesirable acts from them.
Though right to education to all children between 6 to 14 years and additional incentives like scholarship to underprivileged children are guaranteed by constitution of India, still 32 million Indian children have never been to schools, according to an official report.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) sending children to school is many a time more beneficial to the society and the nation, instead of sending them for child labour. We think the practice of child labour is not only stunting the physical growth of individual but stunting their emotional, psychological, economical and social growth of these children. The practice of child labour is stunting the growth of not only of an individual but of a generation.
Authors believe that human resource is the biggest resource and because of practices of child labour the society and the nation are losing the opportunities to develop the greatest resource on the planet.
In our opinion over population is the root cause of all ills in these children. To control the overpopulation, vulnerable society should be given a message that if one is divided by more them one then quotient or dividend will be less than one. If people can understand the value of this message then the result will be far reaching.
Though there are many Acts in India to protect the rights of children but seeing the current plight of children the results of these Acts cannot be realised without the sincere and honest efforts of all stakeholders.
(Dr Gaurav Sanjay is an orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon based in Dehradun. Dr BKS Sanjay is an orthopaedic and spine surgeon, and the founding president of State Chapter of Indian Orthopaedic Association)
Monday, 25 November 2019 | Dr Gaurav Sanjay/ Dr BKS Sanjay | Guest Column
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