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Is Christmas really Merry for Indian Children?
The United Nations Charter on Rights of the Child says, “Mankind owes the child, the best it has.” On Christmas, let us, as a society, appraise ourselves. Are we taking good care of 400 million children, in India?
IT IS believed that Santa Claus visits children every Christmas night. Through his presents, he tries to spread a few smiles among the children. But even the magnanimous Santa would feel ashamed if he were to see what children in our country have to live through daily. India is home to about 400 million children, which account for 40 per cent of the total population. Thus India is home to the largest number of minors in the world. And ironically, it is also the home to the largest number of sexual abused children in the world.
 
A few months back, a sixteen year old girl in the national capital had reported that her mathematics teacher was misbehaving with her. When the parents complained, the principal took no notice of the complaint and now the academically brilliant girl stays at home and does not attend school. An ambitious career nipped in the bud.
 
A nationwide survey conducted by the ministry of women and child development threw light on the amount of child abuse that children suffer in our country. Sixty nine per cent of the respondents reported physical abuse, 53 per cent sexual abuse and 48 per cent reported emotional abuse. It is essential to look at what lies beneath the sea of numbers. Sexual abuse is highest at work followed by those at institutional care. The Nithari killings bore gruesome testimony to the fact that even in a country like India, children are being sexually abused. And shockingly, more than 1/3rd of sexual abuse cases go unreported. More often than not, the perpetrators come from within the child’s inner circle - the employers, relatives and friends.
 
Until recently, it was presumed that child abuse was prevalent only among street children or those in juvenile homes and orphanages. But the study has shown that it cuts across economic, social, and class barriers. The study thus brings forth that child protection is of low priority in the country, with only a minuscule percentage of the annual expenditure (Rs 215 crore in the year 2006) being spent on children.
 
The much-hyped policy against child labour has shown little results. In Shahpur village in Vaishali district in Bihar, children were being used as beasts of burden. But the mindset of people was such that, none of them wanted to help those children. The boys were being used instead of bullocks for ploughing the land and the land under question belongs to the minister for rural development Raghuvansh Prasad’s brother Raghuraj Singh. Child labour right under the nose of the ministry!
 
Children under the age of 14 are forced to work in glass, fireworks, and most commonly, carpet-making factories. India has the largest number of uneducated children in the world. We boast of abysmal numbers, with 75 million children suffering from malnutrition and more than a 100 million being uneducated. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Mid Day meal scheme have not shown the desirous results yet, with 70 per cent dropout rate of children before the 10th standard. 
 
We have always treated our children as objects of sympathy rather than as citizens having constitutional rights.
 
And then there are the child beggars and the mendicants. We see them everyday in filthy dishevelled clothes, maimed, bandaged, with maggots covered bodies. But do we really care? Yes and No. We are the first when it comes to giving them a look of disgust and telling them to go study or work somewhere. But do we provide them enough opportunities to do all this? Or was it their mistake that they were born in a country where actors, politicians and sports stars are given a demigod status, but the true fairies and angels are totally ignored.
 
Children are said to be god’s gifts but it is unfortunate that in our country we don’t appreciate these gifts. If this is the way the children are treated, then the future of our nation is bleak. On Christmas day, amidst the Christmas carols, let us take a moment to contemplate as to what can be done for our fairies and angels. Let us provide them the basic necessities of life for starters, which they can build upon to emerge as powerful citizens of our country. After all, we don’t want Santa telling us, that he is the only one gifting our children. Only then we would be able to say that it is a Merry Christmas not just for the fortunate but also for the less blessed!
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