Is There an Urgent Need of Addressing the Plight of Young Children in India?

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A report named “The State Of Young Child In India” was launched by Vice President Mr Venkaiah Naidu. This report was launched on 4th September 2020. A Delhi-based NGO, Mobile Creches published this report for the first time. This report focuses on the development of kids between age 0 and 6 years of age. 

This report gives data of around 159 million children. All of them belong to the age below six years. Out of these 159 million children, 21% out of them are undernourished, 36% of total kids under this age are underweight, and 38% of people don’t receive full immunization. There were a lot of kids who faced diseases like Anemia, among others.

What is in the Report? 

This report mainly has two different indexes. These are the Young Child Outcomes Index (YCOI) and the Young Child Environment Index (YCEI). The YCOI measures children’s health, nutrition, and their cognitive growth. The age group is 0-6 years. Indicators that are used were the infant mortality rate, stunting, and, the net attendance of such kids at the primary school level. The YCEI helps us in understanding the policy and environment that influence every child’s well being. This index is based on five policy variants named as poverty alleviation, strengthening primary health care, improving education levels, safe water supply, and promotion of gender equity.  

The YCOI was created for two different years. The first one was for 2005-06. The other year was 2015-16. Meanwhile, due to a lack of data, YCEI was created for only 2015-16.

The overall score of India under the YCOI in 2005-06 was 0.443 out of 1. It improved to 0.585 in the year 2015-16. This marks an improvement of 0.142 points in 10 years. Best performing states in the year 2005-06 are Kerala, Goa, and Tamil Nadu. Meanwhile, for the year, 2015-16 top-performing states were Kerala, Goa, and Tripura. Furthermore, the worst-performing states were Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand. States that showed little improvement in this gap of a decade are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Goa. On the other hand, a maximum improvement was seen in states of Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh. India’s overall score under the YCEI is 0.672. The highest rating states were Kerala, Goa, and Sikkim. Meanwhile, there were eight other states which scored lower than the national average. And the worst performing states among them were Jharkhand, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh.

Moreover, the report talked about the expenditure made by the government on the development of children. It talks about India’s allocated budget on child nutrition, healthcare, education, and other necessary protection services. As per the report, India spent Rs. 1,723 per child in the year 2018-19 under all the headings given above. This report highlights the problem of budget allocation and its expenditure. The Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) works for fighting malnutrition by providing food, healthcare, and immunization at the primary school level. It highlights that though the population of kids under six years of age is 158 million, ICDS only covers 71.9 million of them. This report shows that even though there has been an increase in the overall budget for childcare by 40 million Indian rupees from 2014 to 2019. But this increase is significantly less, and India needs a manifold increase in its budget allotment towards these children. It also shows how social sector spending has decreased in India.  

Key Issues that Need To Be Addressed

There is a large gap in the funding for children, and resultantly, India needs to tackle it. If we wish to improve the impact of poor socio-economic conditions of households, we need to provide quality nutrition and child care at a young age. We need to make sure to not overburden the families due to poor developmental outcomes of malnourished children. India needs to increase its budgetary allocations and probably double it, to provide for basic quality food and nutrition.

There is a lack of importance given to the front-line workers, i.e. ASHA workers. Their optimum utilization is not done. A professional approach is also not given to these sectors. Even though the government has successfully reduced the poverty line. But there has been an increase in the accumulation of wealth. Furthermore, Inequities have also increased. There has not been the trickle-down effect, and all the services available have been utilized by the upper class of the needy people. The poorest of the poor don’t get the help they need—the current practice of using the program is not in place. The government has attempted to design strategies which fit all ranging from poor to rich, but this has not worked. And India needs strategies that are created to cater to specific groups. Disadvantaged children need to be treated in a better way. Furthermore, as evident that Media has increased its reach, there has been special attention given to underprivileged groups of kids. Where disability exists, it is critical for these children to be able to access high-quality early intervention services to assist them in reaching their potential.  

Suggestions That Were Given by the Report

The first suggestion given by the Mobile Creches Report is that the government needs to make an Early Childhood Development of national importance. It is of quite an importance that development must be done in all sectors. All the factors of development of the young child are interconnected. Progress in all these domains is a prerequisite if any country wants to develop its children. Union and state governments need to make commitments in poverty alleviation, education, health, water supply, and sanitation.

There is a need for change in the way the front-line workers are treated. Every front line worker should be professionally trained. Every child has the right to quality care which will only be ensured when the government provides them with professional help. Usually, the government tends to ignore the problems of Anganwadi workers and Asha workers. 

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) should be taken under the right to education for the age group 3-6 recognizing the importance of quality ECCE in the first 1000 days of a child. This would set a stage for optimal utilization of ECCE. ECCE has till now been one of the weakest links in the government policy. The national education policy, 2019, recognized that the condition of schools is minimal. They need to improve it for the kids. The crèche services and complimentary childcare services must be aimed to develop as the backbone of ECD. The focus of the union government should be aimed at the states which are not much developed. There is a need for an increase in budgetary allocations.  

Conclusion 

This report on the state of Young Child in India is of grave importance. This report highlights the problem that policymakers should adhere to. Astonishing numbers were shown in terms of the kids who are undernourished, underfed, and underweight. 158 million children are the resources for the future. They deserve special care. Our policies have not been influential on the ground level. The trickle-down effect is not happening at a reasonable rate. Inequities have increased continuously, and our policymakers have not given much thought to it. The share of budget allotment that is to be done is also not up to the mark. There is a need for doubling the budget allotment. This report is a prime example that if the government policy is kept under the eye of NGOs, there is a high chance of development. When the government and public organizations work hand in hand, things work in a better way.


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