Social exclusion of children belonging to marginalised groups and barriers to children’s access to their rights-based entitlements were highlighted as crucial issues confronting the society at a workshop on children’s rights here recently. Activists said children being forced to work as labourers was an “abysmal failure” of all institutions.
The day-long workshop was organised jointly by Save the Children, Prayatna, Society for All Round Developemnt (SARD), Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) and Alwar Mewat Institute of Education and Development (AMIED).
Activists, development practitioners and journalists addressing the workshop said child labour, child marriage, trafficking, emotional, mental and physical violence, poor health condition and denial of access to education were the major challenges confronting the children in Rajasthan.
It was pointed out that there were 12.60 lakh child labourers in the State and 22.8 per cent of children were deprived of education and forced to do menial jobs, according to the figures provided by 61st round of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).
Prayatna director Manish Singh said up to 90 per cent of the excluded children in the State were from the Dalit and minority communities. The International Partnership Agreement Programme (IPAP), which is in progress in Rajasthan, has revealed that violation of children’s rights is too high in the State.
Amit Chaudhary of Save the Children said the sectoral groups such as small farmers, manual scavengers, daily wage earners and fishermen faced multiple exclusions for their children through discrimination and denial of opportunities.
Ashish Tripathi of CUTS said the sensitisation of society was “a time-consuming process”, even as the work under the IPAP was in progress in 109 villages of Bharatpur, Alwar and Chittaurgarh districts. He said the indicators for tracking the progress and outcome of advocacy efforts were showing encouraging signals through positive results.
Noor Mohammed of AMIED said the Mewat Development Board was yet to fulfil its promises for promoting girls’ education by establishing residential schools for them. A short film on children’s exclusion was also exhibited at the workshop and a quarterly magazine, “Badhtey Qadam” (Marching Ahead), was unveiled on the occasion.
In one of the panel discussions, Sanjeev Srivastava, former head of BBC in India, said the media were often giving priority to the issues generating sensation and political controversies at the cost of serious social problems. Sunny Sebastian of The Hindu suggested that the rag-picking children be paid some remuneration for cleaning the localities.
Jamat-e-Islami Hind State president Mohammed Salim said the State Government should seriously address the issue of exclusion of children as a result of communal violence and promote alternative institutions of education, such as madrasas, which were at present attended by only 4 per cent of Muslim children.
Ajay Setia of ETV-New Delhi felt that the Right to Education Act brought into force recently would make a significant contribution to bring the marginalised children to the mainstream of education. Vandana Saxena of Delhi University said the impact of campaigns for children’s issues often gets “diminished” under the influence of corporate and entertainment news coverage.
Urvashi Rawal of Hindustan Times affirmed that the important issues such as children’s struggle for survival within the family and in society and their social boycott should be covered by newspapers in the proper perspective.
Some of the possible interventions for ending children’s exclusion suggested at the workshop were increasing the government’s accountability, influencing policy makers, facilitating access to resources, delivering services demonstrably, tackling prejudices and changing the behaviour of service providers on education, health and child protection.
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