Ashpreet Sethi, New Delhi, August 5, 2012, DHNS:
Researchers and activists working in the area of child rights, education and health raised concerns over the draft National Policy on Children, 2012 alleging that the policy has not been formed through a “democratic process”. Members of rights groups such as Action Aid India, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion and Right to Education (RTE) Forum, among others, held a meeting on August 1 to discuss some prominent points missing in the draft. Activists have formed recommendations that will be handed over to the union women and child development ministry, which is formulating the final draft. They alleged that though the ministry held several consultations with rights groups and children, their reports have not been made public. Many objected that despite consultations the draft does not reflect that the ministry took them into consideration. They say it does not follow a rights framework. For example, governance related issues that are central to a rights framework are missing. “No goal or target regarding educational, health, nutrition and protection of children rights is mentioned in the draft policy document, which is a major shortcoming,” said Alex George, member of Action Aid. He said instead of offering to form a plan of action, the ministry should have stated the institutional mechanisms in terms of making various ministries accountable for health, education, nutrition and protection of children.
“While it is encouraging that the policy draft settles the age debate on definition of children at 18 years, it does not assure that this will be applicable across various laws such as the Child Labour Prohibition and Rehabilitation Act,” said George.
Others pointed out that the draft does not address the issue of equal education for all. “The policy fails to commit on equitable quality of education for all children under a national system of public education through the common school system,” said Ambarish Rai, convenor of RTE Forum.
Other loopholes in the draft, as pointed out by experts, include role of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights not being defined, no clear commitment on budgets of various ministries, no protection of existing entitlements to disadvantaged and vulnerable children, and no provisions for breastfeeding and benefits to poor women.