Child Rights – An Issue Long Neglected

In a number of villages of Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh, children have been dying since 2006 because of malnutrition. Running schools, nutritious food and health camps are a rarity there.
• On the streets of Guwahati, there are thousands of children outside the reach of normal schooling system. Most must work to make both the ends meet. The numbers are much worse in many of the bigger cities.
• For her childish pranks, domestic servant Sonu was tortured, tied up and left to bleed to death.
• HIV positive school children are being thrown out of schools in Uttar Pradesh.
• Nearly 50%of all child deaths in India are due to malnutrition. Nearly 45 million children in the age group of 5-14 years are neither at work nor at school.


These incidents that I have mentioned are just a few of the thousands of incidences of lost childhood and the lost child in India. Even after 62 years of Independence, childhood for a large section of Indian children is labour, abuse, exploitation, no school, no play, no water, no medicines and hardly any food even.


Childhood is the age of freedom, learning, innocence, happiness, trust, hope and of love. The children are the most vulnerable in the society. “All children are born with fundamental freedom”- says the United Nation’s Charter of Child Rights.

However in the context of child rights, the very basic question which arises in our minds is “WHO IS A CHILD?” The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) defines children as persons below the age of 18. But under Indian legal system, there is no uniformly fixed age of a child. It depends upon the context and law to be applied to particular children.

Children’s Action 1999 states, “To guarantee the human rights of a child is to invest in the future.

The United Nation’s Charter provides for four basic rights of all children of the world, irrespective of their caste, creed, race, colour, gender, religion or any other status. These are:

1. THE RIGHT TO SURVIVAL which includes life, health, nutrition, name, and nationality.
2. THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT including education, care, leisure, and recreation.
3. THE RIGHT TO PROTECTION from exploitation, abuse, and neglect.
4. THE RIGHT TO PARTICIPATION that is to expression, information, and thoughts.

It is up to the Government and Society to ensure these rights. And then all children will have a childhood free from labour, bondage, illiteracy, abuse, malnutrition, and homelessness. The Indian governments have done their bits to guarantee the rights of the children in India through enactment of laws. But as regards enforcement and implementation, the less said the better. Some of the laws made by the government are:

* The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
* The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
* The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1929
* Children Act, 1960
* The Guardian and Wards Act, 1890
* The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956
* The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956
* The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
* The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986
* The Orphanages and other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act, 1960
* The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958
* The Reformatory Schools Act, 1897
* The Women’s and Children’s Institutions (Licensing) Act, 1956
* The Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act, 1956

In a world full of conflict – economic, social, intellectual, and violent confrontations, child rights are considered to be one of those issues on which the world has achieved some consensus. But the question is have necessary measures been taken to make rights of children meaningfully available to them for their overall social, cultural and individual growth.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. If children live with hostility, they learn to fight. If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy. If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty. If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient. If children live with encouragement, they learn to be confident. If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate. If children live with fairness, they learn justice. If children live with security, they learn to have faith. If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves. If children live with acceptance and friendship, they learn to live to find love in the world.

Does it bother you friends that the child working in the garage in front of your house is of your age or that of your younger brother? While you learn during the day at school and play in the evening, this fellow is busy struggling for 12 hours in tattered clothes with grease and auto parts?
Or the fellow serving tea or food at the roadside shop?
Or the girl working as a maid at yours neighbours?
Or the firecrackers that you burst this Deepavali or the carpet that your parents purchased might have been the hard and handy work of child labourers?
Could they be as bright and as sharp as we are given the same opportunities?


Marian Wright Edelman had rightly said “If we don’t stand for the children then we don’t stand for much.”

Let us make a beginning by standing for the rights of a child, the rights of all children. Let us be aware of the rights to survival, development, protection, and participation. Let us take steps at our level to ensure these. Let us stand for our fellow children and demand their child rights. I also appeal to the grown ups to do everything possible so that every child can grow as a child and dream about and shape his or her future.


I would end by quoting the following beautiful lines from Pamela Glenconner,



Daring makes life new

In the words of Robert Kennedy- “Each time a man dares, he sends a ripple of hope, and crossing each other from different centers of daring, those ripples build a current which sweeps the walls of domination and resistance.

Daring means much more than simple courage. It includes vision and needs tremendous amounts of creativity to give real shape to the vision. So vision, creativity, and courageous actions are the basic components of daring.

It is courage and the spirit of adventure that distinguishes persons of metal from the meek; it is the daring of those select few that the world is what it is today – a better place to live, economically prosperous for a sizeable human population, a place with scientific and technological marvels for a better quality of life. It has been possible to progress because a number of women and men dared to question the existing values, practices, scientific facts and the established order in the world of literature and arts. It has been rightly said that, ‘Nothing venture, nothing win’.

Where would Homo sapiens be without a SHAKESPEARE, a LEONARDO DA VINCI, a GALILEO, a COPERNICUS, a DARWIN, a MAGELLAN, a COOK, a LINCOLN, an EDISON, a BACH, a PICASSO, an EINSTEIN, a LENIN or a MANDELA? They are just to name a few among the thousands of others who dared to think and act differently. Nearer home, and from times, not a distant past , RABINDRANATH TAGORE, VIVEKANANDA, MAHATMA PHULE, KABIR, JAMINI ROY, J.C. BOSE, C.V.RAMAN, E.V.NAICKER, MOTHER TERESA, HOMI BHABHA, BHAGAT SINGH, JAWAHARLAL NEHRU and MAHATMA GANDHI are some of the brightest examples of people who went against conventional wisdom, broke established norms and revolutionized the way we think and act. They changed our perceptions about the world – as it is and as it should be. It requires extraordinary vision and courage to go beyond the conventional and excel. Mahatma Gandhi showed us this through his life. He said, “I believe that a man is the strongest soldier to die unarmed.” The result of his daring was the new, independent and resurgent India.

In all spheres of human activity, it is daring that leads to meaningful changes. Those who dare achieve, maybe through failures at times, but the failures teach them to do things differently than earlier and dare further. In education, in business, in science, in creatives, and in social actions, one is motivated by a vision of the new and the goal is reached only through continuing courageous actions – in short through daring. Daring is not a foolhardiness, but an informed desire to go beyond the normal and excel. As Charles Lindbergh said and I quote, “What kind of man would live where there is no daring? I don’t believe in taking foolish chances but nothing can be accomplished without taking any chance at all.” The commoners may ridicule the darer and even may try to stop the darer; the powerful may try to put obstacles in the path of when their interests are hurt by the act; but the sheer courage and the undying spirit of the visionary ultimately wins and the new is ushered in, even if the person is no longer there. Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stakes, but the Copernican model was accepted subsequently and further modified by many scientists. If one is triumphant, a new life is achieved; if one fails while daring, one is still better than those who have seen neither triumph nor defeat, as they never dared. Failures do not symbolize cowardliness but braveness. So, we must dare and dare again and go on daring.

I would end by quoting by Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature.