The Government is slow in recognizing children as discrete group with exclusive needs and rights. Despite some key legislation on protection of children rights, still a lot needs to be done for special treatment of children who live in difficult circumstances says Humara Bachpan, a national campaign on living condition for young children living in urban poverty.
In India we have 7.6 million young children in the age group of 0-6 years who live in a condition which is defined by the census of India as not fit for dwelling. And the place of dwelling is best known as 'SLUM'. It means our next generation to come from these slums will not cherish their childhood as they will grow up in such an inhuman condition.
We always say children are our future citizens but we often forget to secure their present. There are 53 percent of urban poor children suffer from anaemia. Malnutrition measured through underweight (47.1%) and stunted children (54.2 %) is significant among the urban poor. A study by the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India (2009) finds that 23 million below the age of 14 in urban India are at risk from poor sanitation.
Sanitation, which is the subject of the seventh millennium development goals (MDGs) are worstly affecting the young children's health and safety in urban poverty. Report says 4861 out of the 5161 cities/towns in India do not have even a partial sewerage network. Nearly 20% of non notified slums and 10% of notified slums have no access to a latrine. 23 million children are at risk in urban India due to poor sanitation.
Most of the Indian slums are vulnerable to fires due to open electric lines and poor housing construction. And it has been seen in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar, Bangalore children with injuries and under treatment due to accidents caused by unsafe electric supply. Even 1% notified and 7% non-notified slums did not have electricity connection. It is estimated that about 1,15,000 MT solid waste is generated in the country. Per Capita waste generation in city varies from 0.2 kg to 0.6 kg per day. This is increasing by 1.3% per year which is alarming for the children's health.
Recent studies suggest a strong link between open defecation and under nutrition in India, where rates of stunting are high, despite strong economic growth. The latest estimates show that 48% of under-fives in India are stunted. Children there tend to be shorter than their sub-Saharan African counterparts, even though Indians are, on average, richer. This is mostly in urban slum areas as the report says.
Young children living in urban poverty are not properly treated and safeguarded by any legal provision or by any specific policy. We show our love and kindness for children but never realize that it may be merely abstraction as our political and social surroundings are not child friendly. These children are not free from abuse, exploitation, contamination, other risks arising out of unsafe living condition and above all deprived of basic minimum services.
Urban slums are exposed to pollution from industrial and vehicular sources because slums are commonly located near factories and highways. Children are most affected by this high risk of polluted air because they tend to breathe more and quicker.
When the government itself terms their dwellings as unsafe and unhealthy, how we can expect these young children to make big in the so called mainstream society, pronounce Humara Bachpan. The campaign demands a fair deal from the government for these young children in urban poverty by improving their living condition and making each rupee count which would be spent in governance polices like JnNNURM and RAY.
About Humara Bachpan:
"Humara Bachpan'' (www.humarabachpan.org) is a national campaign on living conditions for young children in urban poverty. The campaign calls for inclusion of child friendly components in the urban renewable policies such as Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and Rajiv Awash Yojana (RAY).
-- Facilitate children forums, network with organisations working with children to advocate for a safe physical environment for children.
-- Understand how young children understand and use their physical environment.
-- Create opportunities for children and teenagers' participation and leadership through an empowering process.
-- Respect young children's creative thinking and capacities to advocate for change.
-- Educate policy makers, practitioners and the civil society about research outcomes and processes onimportance of safe and healthy physical space in the development of young children.
-- Ensure change in urban renewal and related urban development programs and policies such as JNNURM and RAY. And lobby for inclusion of a separate chapter on children's participation to make it more child friendly.
Ananta Prasad, Humara Bachpan, +91 9040132131, [email protected]