By Joseph Gathia
As India completes 58 years of republic on January 26, 2007, it is right time to take stock of children’s situation in the upcoming economic power.
Now stock market is rising, companies are showing profits but the recent incident that took place in Nithari, hardly stone throw from capital city of New Delhi has raised several eye browns in human rights circle.Organ trafficking or sexual abuse may account for the disappearance of 38 children from Nithari. Two persons have been arrested for alluring tender age children, sexually abusing them and then murdering them.This case compels all those concerned with social development to rethink about situation of children in India. Dr. John Dayal, the dynamic religious freedom fighter connected with All India Christian Council has issued urgent appeal to review child welfare and protection programme in India.India harbours 19 per cent of world’s child population and almost 42 % of total population (1100 million) are children. And yet total expenditure on children in health, education, development and protection together is only 4.9 % of India’s total budget outlet.The UPA Government under Dr. Man Mohan Singh has no doubt increased this last year yet the share of resources on child protection is 0.034 per cent as per Department of Women & Child Development. The Church in India has expressed concern over growing child trafficking in South Asia. Nepal and Bangladesh have been identified as “sending” countries or countries of region in the region web of trafficking. India and Pakistan are referred to as countries of “transit “ or “destination.” The problem is particularly acute in Nepal where ninety percent of its 21 million inhabitants rely on continuation agriculture.According to International Labour Organisation (ILO) there is a large child labour force in India than anywhere else in the world. Official Indian statistics put the total number of child workers at 11 million full times and 10 million part times. Unofficial figures vary between 55 million to 90 million. A Child Labour Act was introduced in 1986, which bans children less than 14 years of age from being hired for any labour.However, several million children slog for their survival and it is estimated that children below 15 years constitute nearly 35 % of India’s labour force. They are force to do hard work, are often deprived of food and rest and work conditions are often unhealthy and unsafe. Push factors include acute poverty among Dalits and tribals, societal view of down looking their children, lack of schools, infrastructure, absence of teachers and above all no law enforcement. The worst sufferer among working children are those who are employed for household work and commonly referred as child domestic workers (CDWs). For a long time the official agencies responsible for protection of children denied their existence. But due to constant campaign by the NGOs supported by international agencies (such as Misereor, Bread for the World, Christian Aid, Oxfam, CIDA, Novib, Caritas, CRS, DANIDA etc.) now the Government has banned employment of children below 14 years as domestic help from 10 th October 2006.It is said that in Metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Kolkatta, Delhi and Chennai majority of domestic help are children particularly girls below 14 years.Child trafficking is increasing in India. Though there is an Immoral Traffic Prevention Act it only refers to trafficking for prostitution hence does not provide comprehensive protection for children. Nor does the Act provide clear definition of “trafficking”.In international circle commonly followed definition is that of United Nations Commission on Human Rights which says “ Trafficking in persons means the recruitment, transportation, purchase sale, transfer, harbouring or receipt of person by threat or use of violence, abduction, force deception or coercion (including the abuse of authority) or debt bondage, for the purpose of placing or holding such person, whether for pay or not, in forced labour or slavery like practices, in a community other than the one in which such person lived at the time of original act described.” India has also not ratified The Palemo Protocol, which provides protection to children against trafficking. It is estimated that 200,000 persons are trafficked in India every year. Only 10 % of human trafficking in India is international, while almost 90 % is interstate. Nearly 40,000 children are abducted every year of which 11000 remain untraced according to a report by the National Human Rights Commission of India.In India children’s vulnerability and exposure to violations of their rights remains widespread and multiple in nature. But the real cause of worry is UNIFEM’s report which says s that 40 % of India’s police officer are unaware of child trafficking problem.Joseph Gathia is senior journalist and human rights activists and is fonder of Centre of Concern for Child Labour.