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‘Laws alone can’t protect children’s rights’

At a webinar hosted by Apeejay Stya University, Dr. H.S. Chandalia, professor, writer and columnist, called for socio-economic empowerment to fight child labour and exploitation

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India has one of the largest proportions of population in the younger age groups in the world. According to the 2011 census, around 41 per cent of India’s population is below the age of 20 years.

Hence, it’s imperative to ensure a better world for our children. But, how? To seek an answer to this question, School of Education, NSS (National Service Scheme) and Rotaract Club of Apeejay Stya University, organised a webinar on ‘Missing Childhood: Implications For Teaching & Development Community’.  Chief Guest, Dr. H.S. Chandalia, professor, writer, columnist, an activist and Vice President, RASE Udaipur, said laws alone can’t safeguard child rights. “The UN has declared 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, but around 160 million children are still in child labour. Talking about India, despite numerous laws and plethora of organisations working on children’s rights there are around 12.9 million children engaged in labour. The reason is income inequality. India’s richest 1% corner 73% of wealth generation. A report also said that 75 per cent of rural India survives on Rs 33 per day. Such inequalities also adversely affect the lives of children.”

Dr. H.S. Chandalia & Ashutosh Nema

‘Childhood adultification must end’

Dr. Chandalia shed light on Childhood adultification which occurs when young people engage in behaviours understood as adult-like such as taking on caregiving or provider roles in the family. He said increasing poor families’ incomes is the most efficient way to reduce a child’s exposure to poverty. “Children are losing their childhood. Some 70 per cent of child labour worldwide is found in agriculture, with many children engaged in forced and hazardous activities. The average growth of agriculture in India for the last seven years’ is less than 2 per cent.”

He also lamented that in India, most large employers blatantly ignore the legal requirement to provide creches, meant to boost women’s participation in the workforce and provide support to young children. According to the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, 2017, it’s mandatory for every organisation with 50 or more employees to have a crèche. He also said that due to increasing workload, young professionals nowadays are giving up on marriage and working parents are spending less time with their children. “The government has to come up with employee-friendly policies and implement them fairly. These are important for our children.”

According to Dr. Chandalia, children should be given full freedom to express their creativity. “Children are naturally creative. It is our job to give them the freedom, materials and let their creativity blossom to its full potential. For example, don’t stop your child from scribbling on walls. Give them a designated space to let their creativity flow. Being mischievous is an important part of childhood.”

Dr. Chandalia also said online learning is disadvantageous to poor students, especially young ones. About 56% of children have no access to a smartphone, let alone an active internet connection.

‘Tap India’s demographic dividend’

Meanwhile, guest of honour at the webinar, Ashutosh Nema, a master trainer, child rights activist and a member of Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation said that India must make the most of its demographic dividend to become a superpower. “India has a lot of potential, but if the government and teachers don’t tap this potential then this demographic dividend can turn into a demographic disaster.” 

He talked about the four main pillars of Child rights- the right to survival, the right to protection, the right to development and the right to participation. These rights are based on the non-discrimination principle and all actions must be in line with the best interest of children.

Dheeraj Sharma is Asst. Editor (Newsroom). He covers events, webinars, conducts interviews and brings you exciting news snippets. He has over 10 years' of experience in prominent media organizations. He takes pleasure in the small things in life and believes a healthy work-life balance is key to happiness. You can reach him at dhe[email protected]

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