42 percent Indians are young, invest in them: NGOs


New Delhi : As many as 42 percent of Indians are young but only five percent of the national budget is spent on them, activists have pointed out and called for more investments in the “thriving asset” that is tomorrow’s India.

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An indicator of the state of affairs is that the India Alliance for Child Rights has prepared a manifesto on child rights for political parties ahead of the national elections due next year, retaining all demands made in the manifesto released before the 2004 polls.

Talking on the first day of a three-day national consultation on mainstreaming child rights here Monday, Razia Ismail Abbasi, co-convenor of the India Alliance for Child Rights, said that although India adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992, very little was done to improve the lives of children.

“Nearly 42 percent of India’s population is below the age of 18, yet when we talk about the nation’s development we ignore the development of the young,” Abbasi said.

“Why do we always have to look at our enormous young population as a burden? Why not as a thriving asset which will drive our tomorrow? But with just five percent of our budget being allocated for the young, it shows that we don’t want to invest in our assets,” she added.

If India is to compete in a global economy based on the strenght of its human capital, it has to ensure the health, education and development of its children, speakers at the convention said.

Mukta Arora, additional director of the woman and child department of Rajasthan, brought some hope to the talk as she said her state was the first to have a child policy.

The policy, passed in October 2008, aims to counter the high prevalence of child marriages, female infantide, foeticide and child labour in the state.

According to Arora, this policy intends to create a “safe, secure and conducive environment ensuring each child has a right to be born, survive and grow”.

Arora said the average age of girls in Rajasthan at the time of marriage has increased from 17.2 years during 1991-1995 to 17.8 years during 1996-2001, though Abbasi warned that it is disillusional to become happy with certain data and ignore the deep rooted issues.

“Over the last 15 years, infant mortality rates have dropped and the child survival rate has gone up. Literacy rates have improved and school dropout rates have shown a marginal decline. Yet, 35 percent of the developing world’s low-birth-weight babies are born in India and 40 percent of child malnutrition in the developing world is in India. These things have to be improved,” Abbasi said.

Gerry Pinto of the NGO Butterflies said that inclusion of the words “child protection” and “child participation” which are generally ignored while drafting policies for children, are very important – something which he pointed out was missing in Rajasthan’s child policy.

“When you talk about child rights, it’s not just their welfare that you are talking about. It’s the right of the child to enjoy a safe and good childhood, be treated like a child until he or she is 18, have the right to live,” he said.

Abbasi added that in a survey when kids were asked why their lives were not getting any better and development not taking place – whether it was an issue of lack of money, resources or will – an almost unanimous answer was “lack of will”.