Kid’s charter far from reality: Elders
The Indian Express, December 9, 2003

NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 9: The National Charter for the Child brought out feeling champions among the Elders today but few felt the charter would make any difference. Leading the case was poet Balkavi Bairagi who recalled his childhood on the streets. ‘‘Unlike all of you, I have no nostalgia for my childhood. From the streets, I am here in the Parliament of India,’’ he told the House.

Bairagi told members since his father was crippled, he had to beg on the streets to sustain the family.‘‘When I was four-and-a-half, my mother gave me a begging bowl and told me to find food for the family or we would die. I am happy today but nobody can erase those feelings of shame and give back my childhood to me.’’

Bairagi, a Congress member, was trying to relate the socio-economic milieu in which majority of Indian children are brought up to Murli Manohar Joshi’s dream of giving rights and proper care to all children under the national children’s charter.

Bairagi lost his first child, barely 11 months old, as he could not afford to buy medicines. ‘‘I studied with the money made from begging,’’ he said, ‘‘but I don’t need anybody’s pity’’.

Bairagi was followed by other members. Samajwadi Party’s Janeshwar Mishra said he was taught the difference between a Hindu and a Harijan when he was barely three. ‘‘My grandmother forbade me from sitting on my Harijan nanny’s lap. At that age, I, a Brahmin, was taught about being different from a Harijan.’’

Mishra, who dismissed Joshi’s draft as a ‘‘package of words’’, said unless daring laws were made to banish casteism and social inequalities, no action plan on children would work.

In lighter vein, Mishra demanded that a law banning beating up of children by parents be passed. ‘‘A person who is beaten in childhood never grows as a strong and proud person,’’ he said, adding it was the ‘‘basic reason for the Indians’ obsequious mentality’’. (Emphasis added)

Members demanded that child labour be tackled vehemently as Indian children were among the world’s largest workforce in third world countries. Chanderkala Pandey of the CPI(M) alleged that the charter was more of an election plank floated by the NDA. ‘‘Already, there are already laws under which children can be protected and nurtured. This charter has only taken the children of upwardly mobile middle class into consideration,’’ she said.

Manoj Bhattacharya of the Revolutionary socialist party (RSP) said child rights have no meaning in the face of growing poverty and helplessness of families who were losing jobs due to liberalisation. ‘‘You increase the earning capacity of parents and then see if children working as labourers go to school or not.’’

A few members were worried about the adverse fallout of television advertisements and programmes on children. Bairagi said the government should be worried about the tension in children’s lives and also increasing suicide rates among them.

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