Political tempers are rising in the run-up to the 16th Lok Sabha elections, but there's one segment of the population whose interests all parties seem curiously oblivious to — children.
Status Report On Child Rights in India: An Overview of the last Decade, a study released by NGO CRY in November last year, accused political parties of neglecting the rights of children because they did not form a vote bank. The report analysed the 2009 election manifestos of 10 parties to show that most had given insufficient importance to child rights. Studying the parties' approach to four basic rights of children — right to survival, development, protection and participation — the report said that "children under the age of 18 and their issues got a mention of less than 15 per cent". CRY has also come up with a 10-point 'child manifesto' covering issues such as education, health, nutrition and protection.
"All major political parties are busy canvassing and campaigning for votes. So far, none of them have spoken about these issues which affect 40% of population," said Kumar Jahgirdar, national president of Children's Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP).
Political parties say that children's rights will be talked about in the manifestos and campaigns for the upcoming elections. "The BJP is planning to highlight the issue," said Yogita Singh of BJP's women's cell. Congress legislator Barkha Singh said child rights would be a priority for her party in the coming elections. Similarly, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has said that child rights will be one of its priorities. "Besides tackling issues related to women and senior citizens, our party is focusing on children's concerns in our election manifesto," said the party spokesperson.
In 2009, the two major parties had made brief references to children in their manifestos. The BJP had vowed to constitute a National Education Commission, and make education responsive to the needs and aspirations of youth, and remove the digital divide by extending information technology. The Congress manifesto too had promised to "turn a sharp focus on the special needs of children, especially the girl child".
The latest United Nations report on children in India, Childhood Under Threat, states that millions of Indian children are deprived of their right to survival, health, nutrition, education and safe drinking water, that 63 per cent of them go to bed hungry and 53 per cent suffer from chronic malnutrition. India is a party to the UN declaration on the Rights of the Child 1959.