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Child Welfare

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- S.R.Rajagopal

“If you strike a child, you merely drive more naughtiness into him/her” – proverb

Two-fifth of our country’s population accounts for children. Naturally, the participation of child in the human society indirectly is significant since they are the `would-be makers and pillars of future world’ who are mold in infancy stage by their mothers. This infancy molding is the base for their future reflection. Therefore, on this background, child welfare gets primary importance in general all over the world and in particular at our country where population figures have been steadily at its increasing stretch.

Constitutional Protection:
Different articles incorporated in the Constitution of India ensure the welfare of children in different sectors.
- Article 24 of the Constitution lays down that no child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
- Article 39 enjoins the State to see, inter alia, that the tender age is not abused and that the citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their
age or strength. It also provided that it was the duty of the State to ensure that childhood is protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
- Article 45 of the Constitution, laid down a clear cut provision for free and compulsory education for children. It says, “The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years”.

Constitution’s assurance for child welfare is carefully kept in works and the real
plight is pathetic. Central and State governments have their child development centres all over the country to implement the government schemes, policies and programmes in regard to child welfare. Whether such welfare measures thus far in progress are well benefited or not? More than the negative answer to this question; the important aspect is to focus on the new strategies which would overcome the deficiencies being persisted in the existing programmes and policies. Even after more than 50 years of lapse after the Constitution’s commencement, India has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. 50% of our children are living in conditions of deprivation mostly below 6 years of age, the stage, the most critical period for the growth and development of a child. Infant mortality, child poverty, malnutrition, child labour, school dropouts, disabled children etc. constitute the overall bad condition of India’s child welfare.
Government schemes:

Government schemes including Applied Nutrition Programme, the Special Nutrition Programme, the Midday Meals in Schools which are attributed to be popular for downtrodden people do not take care of children. Vomiting after eating meals has become daily news. Meals are prepared in unhygienic environment. Government authorities responsible for this right from a cook to a minister are all selfish and they do not think about child welfare at all when they implement such welfare schemes. Their eyes focus only on vote banks. If the government and the authorities are really serious about deteriorating child welfare activities, then they should provide adequate hygienic atmosphere around the children. Otherwise, it would continue to be a mockery on child welfare.

Parents of children should also realize about their role in participating children’s health. Unfortunately, their poverty is such that they have necessarily to pick up something which is being offered free of cost. That hygienic or not is not a matter for them because poverty makes all ill-affordable to fetch whatever available free around them within their easy catch. Government and politicians utilize these poor people’s disadvantageous position as an opportunity for them to find themselves in an advantageous position while poor people continue to suffer and so are their children.

Poor performance:

Integrated Child Development Services scheme was launched in 1975-76 aiming at better performance of implementation strategies adopted by the government had included:
· Improving the nutritional and health status of children in the age group of 0-6 years
· Laying the foundation for the proper psychological, physical and social development of the child
· Reducing the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropout
· Coordinating in policy and implementation amongst the various departments to promote child development and
· Enhancing the capability of mother to look after the normal health needs of the child through proper nutrition and health education.

Moreover, thousands of voluntary organizations across the country have over the years, demonstrated supreme concern over the plight of abandoned nature of child welfare but they have not been successful in achieving their goal. India is yet to achieve an average annual 5.79 per cent reduction in its under-five mortality rate (U 5 MR) to reach the United Nations target of U 5 MR (by 2000 AD!). The State of the world’s children report released by the UNICEF lists India among the countries with high U 5 MR rate. According to the report, 30% of infants in India have low birth weight, while 33 per cent suffered from mild to moderate malnutrition.
Parents’ role:

While parents play a primary role as well as unlimited role in child welfare,
Government and self-proclaiming voluntary organizations have only the secondary role to play in child welfare that too unsuccessfully. Keeping a family happy is really a full time job for women and when the children are happy it is so satisfying and rewarding for mothers. In fact it just makes her look for many ways to make her children happy. Their home is an expression of their life style which will be reflected when their children grow. The mother has a crucial role to play in so far as she is the key figure who exerts the maximum influence on the child and moulds its personality during its most impressionable years of life. A well trained mother in the basic needs of child care is the key to be the best human resources development. This was actually the background to launching of ambitious child welfare scheme during the Five Year Plans.

Mothers go into the range of problems facing children, assess their needs during the various stages of development and make strategic plans to meet their needs. Mothers have to ensure their children full physical, mental and social development. Mothers should fully exploit the programmes of the government – comprehensive health programmes, nutrition services for eliminating the deficiencies in diet of children. Better environment for expectant and nursing mothers; education on various welfare measures in force, free and compulsory education for all children unto 14 years; promotion of
physical education and recreational activities; training to enhance the capability of the mothers to look after normal health needs of child through proper health education. These aspects are generally neglected by our women knowingly or unknowingly. Prenatal and postnatal care has assumed greater significance over the years. Only healthy mothers can bring healthy children.

Child Welfare Club:

It is suggested that government think of opening a comprehensive and full-fledged CHILD WELFARE CLUB in every village whether it is small or big and including in the urban conglomerations. This club should be given charge of looking after the entire problems relating to child welfare concerning that particular place. The club should maintain a dossier where, particulars like name, age, periodical health check ups, level of nutrition, family position, etc. would be made available. The Club should individually meet the parents and impart them the necessary education about child welfare. Children should also be separately counseled in a way they would understand. Persistent follow up measures must be adopted on result-oriented basis by this Club. The Club should function on full time basis. These clubs should be made responsible for the excellent maintenance of child welfare schemes under their jurisdiction. Government on their part should provide the necessary and required infrastructural facilities to these clubs. All child welfare measures should be left to be undertaken by these clubs single handedly so as to enable close monitoring of progress effectively under a single umbrella. Feedback
and progress very often than not may be analyzed to regularize/rectify the position wherever warrants as such. Methodologies can be adopted to suit the local environment while the goal of the club should be undiluted in achieving Excellency in child welfare.

It is imperative need for both the government authorities and family members to think that the child does not belong to the family alone but to the community and the whole nation as well. The shape of welfare measures should be to the ultimate achievement of excellence in child welfare through the human beings.

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