National Conference on Child Rights
New Delhi: On 20th November, the International Child Rights Day 2007, The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) organized a National Conference on Child Rights in the capital. The Conference brought together top representatives from the political arena, government departments, child rights organizations and civil society groups.
Also known as Universal Children’s Day, it is an occasion for the world community to renew their commitment to children's right to survival and development, to food, nutrition, health, education and recreation, to identity, name and nationality, family and familiar environment, to protection from neglect, maltreatment, exploitation, abuse and trafficking.
Addressing the Conference, Dr. Shantha Sinha, Chairperson, NCPCR, called for a culture that welcomes and celebrates the birth of every child and grieves over the loss of life of an infant. Dr. Sinha said India has “the largest institutional net in terms of Anganwadi centres, schools, hostels, ashram-shalas, immunisation, and nutrition programme”. She stressed the need for abolishing all forms of child labour and for provision for inclusive education within a rights based perspective.
Smt. Renuka Chowdhury, Minister of State, Ministry of Women & Child Development, referred to a government study on child abuse, which finds that one of every two children in India have potentially been victims of abuse. Expressing concern on children's safety, she added "Children shouldn't be working. We should be working so that they can enjoy their childhood."
Chief Guest, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, said, “Issues of children are inextricably linked with the problems that afflict our society at large - problems of gender inequality, social injustice, of poverty, hunger and disease. Any society that aspires for the welfare, progress and development of mankind must first work for the well-being of its children".
The afternoon session consisted of a panel discussion with ministers, academicians and prominent social workers.
Prof. Muchkund Dubey, People’s Campaign for Common School Systems, pointed out that 40% of our children are out of school. Educational exclusion is the root to all exclusion because it results in exclusion from freedom of thought, expression, he said. Making a strong plea for a common school system he declared “No developed country has become developed without a common school system.”
Dr. Kiran Bedi, Director General, Bureau of Police Research and Development, urged the National Commission to conduct social audits under Section 36, in law enforcement agencies and children’s homes to raise accountability and transparency. Information should be prominently put on its website, she said. More women police officers should be part of the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) in every police station. She called for police officials to network with children's NGO's and to be sensitised on child rights. In the same vein, she advocated for recognition of good police work in relation to children.
In his address, Swami Agnivesh made a strong appeal to enforce the Right to Education rigorously. That itself, he said, would render the Child Labour Act invalid. India has enough legislation in place, it is the enforcement that is not happening, he said.
Making the valedictory address, Union Finance Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram, said “The government has placed highest focus on Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, immunisation and mid-day meal scheme.” He admitted that success stories of such schemes varied widely and the government was working towards making these provisions universal and effective.
Children participated actively in the sessions by articulating their thoughts and perspectives on education, child labour and current social trends.