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(Article) CSM - June 2013: National Policy for Children-2012

National Policy for Children-2012

Fundamental Rights [Article 15(3)] empowers the State to make special provisions for children. The Directive Principles of State Policy (Article 39) in the Constitution specifically guide the State in securing the tender age of children from abuse and ensuring that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner in conditions of freedom and dignity.Ensuring survival, health and nutrition as an inalienable right of every child and special care for kids caught in sectarian violence are some of the features of the government’s Draft National Policy for Children, 2012. The Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry, which has revised the National Policy for Children for the first time  since it was adopted in 1974, has now put the draft policy, which defines any individual below the age of 18 years as child, in public domain inviting views before it is finalised.According to ministry officials, the policy would guide and inform all laws, policies, plans and programmes affecting children and all other actions of national, state and local Governments in relation to population below 18 years. Amongst the key priorities listed in the draft are making survival, health, nutrition, development, education, protection and participation undeniable rights of every child. As per the policy draft, every child has a right to be safeguarded against hunger, deprivation and malnutrition and the State would commit to securing this right through access, provision and promotion of required services and supports for holistic nurturing.

The State shall also take all necessary measures to improve maternal health care secure the right of the girl child and address discrimination of all forms in schools and foster equal opportunity. As per the draft policy, the state would take special protection measures to secure the rights and entitlements of children in difficult circumstances, in particular but not limited to, children affected by migration, displacement, communal or sectarian violence, civil unrest, disasters etc. Children of women in prostitution, children forced into prostitution and other abused and exploited children, those affected by HIV/AIDS, children with disabilities would also be eligible for state protection by the state.

The Cabinet approved the National Policy for Children, 2012 which recognises child survival, health, nutrition, education, development and protection as undeniable rights of every child. As per the National Child Policy every person below the age of eighteen years as a child and that childhood is an integral part of life with a value of its own. According to the policy, a long term, sustainable, multisectoral, integrated and inclusive approach is necessary for the harmonious development and protection of children. The policy lays down the guiding principles that must be respected by national, state and local governments in their actions and initiatives affecting children, a statement released by the government here said. The key guiding principles of the policy are the right of every child to life, survival, development, education, protection and participation, equal rights for all children without discrimination.

The best interest of the child should be a primary concern in all actions and decisions affecting children and family environment as the most conducive for all-round development of children. “The policy has identified survival, health, nutrition, education, development, protection and participation as the undeniable rights of every child, and has also declared these as key priority areas,” the statement released here said. The National Child policy also strives to create convergence and co-ordination across different sectors and levels of governance, partnerships with all stakeholders, setting up of a comprehensive knowledge base, provision of adequate resources; and sensitisation and capacity development of all those who work for and with children. The Policy reaffirms the government’s commitment to the realisation of the rights of all children in the country. It recognizes every person below the age of eighteen years as a child and that childhood is an integral part of life with a value of its own, and a long term, sustainable, multisectoral, integrated and inclusive approach is necessary for the harmonious development and protection of children. The policy lays down the guiding principles that must be respected by national, state and local governments in their actions and initiatives affecting children. Some of the key guiding principles are: the right of every child to life, survival, development, education, protection and participation; equal rights for all children without discrimination; the best interest of the child as a primary concern in all actions and decisions affecting children; and family environment as the most conducive for all-round development of children. The policy has identified survival, health, nutrition, education, development, protection and participation as the undeniable rights of every child, and has also declared these as key priority areas. As children’s needs are multisectoral, interconnected and require collective action, the policy aims at purposeful convergence and strong coordination across different sectors and levels of governance; active engagement and partnerships with all stakeholders; setting up of a comprehensive and reliable knowledge base; provision of adequate resources; and sensitization and capacity development of all those who work for and with children. A National Plan of Action will be developed to give effect to the policy and a National Coordination and Action Group (NCAG) will be constituted to monitor the progress of implementation. Similar plans and coordination and action groups will be constituted at the state and district levels. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights are to ensure that the principles of the policy are respected in all sectors at all levels. There is a provision for review of the policy every five years. The Ministry of Women and Child Development will be the nodal ministry for overseeing and coordinating the implementation of the policy and will lead the review process.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development on 26 July 2012 drafted the National Policy for Children 2012. The revised draft policy reaffirms the government’s commitment towards children and addresses new challenges, seeking to realize the full potential of children’s rights throughout the country. It defines a child as a person below eighteen years of age, and acknowledges the inalienable and inherent rights of the child and aims to realize the full range of child rights for all children in the country. The draft has stated that every child has a right to be safeguarded against hunger, deprivation and malnutrition. According to the draft policy, the state is bound to secure the rights and entitlement of children in difficult circumstances such as migration, displacement, disasters and communal violence. The first National Policy on Children was formulated in 1974. The first policy of 1974 described children as a supremely important asset and made the state responsible for providing equal opportunities for growth and development of all children. The policy primarily focused on health and education of the children. The National Policy for Children (NPC), 1974 was adopted by the Government of India on 22 Aug 1974. This policy describes children as a supremely important asset of the nation and makes the State responsible to provide basic services to children both before and after birth, and also during their growing years and different stages of development. The recognition of the child as a person with inherent and inalienable rights, made it necessary to revise the 1974 policy for introducing rights-based perspectives to child development and protection. Thus, the Ministry of Women and Child Development in India has taken up the framing of a revised National Policy for Children which aims to cover the full range of child rights.

Features of The National Policy for Children

The Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry, has revised the National Policy for Children for the first time since it was adopted in 1974.

  • defines any individual below the age of 18 years as child,
  • the policy would guide and inform all laws, policies, plans and programmes affecting children and all other actions of national, state and local Governments in relation to population below 18 years.
  • As per the policy , every child has a right to be safeguarded against hunger, deprivation and malnutrition and the State would commit to securing this right through  access, provision and promotion of required services and supports for holistic nurturing.
  • The State shall also take all necessary measures to improve maternal health care secure the right of the girl child and address discrimination of all forms in schools and foster equal opportunity.
  • As per the policy, the state would take special protection measures to secure the rights and entitlements of children in difficult circumstances, in particular but not limited to, children affected by migration, displacement, communal or sectarian violence, civil unrest, disasters etc.
  • Children of women in prostitution, children forced into prostitution and other abused and exploited children, those affected by HIV/AIDS, children with disabilities would also be eligible for state protection by
    the state.

The policy has identified the following as the universal, inalienable and undeniable rights of every child, and has also declared these as key priority areas:

  • Survival,
  • Health,
  • Nutrition,
  • Development,
  • Education,
  • Protection and
  • Participation

Nodal Agencies

  • The Ministry of Women and Child development (MWCD) will be the nodal Ministry for overseeing and coordinating the implementation of this Policy.
  • A National Coordination and Action Group (NCAG) f o r Children will monitor progress and ensure that the principles of this Policy are respected in all sectors at all levels in formulating laws, policies and programmes affecting children.
  • Plans of Action at the national and state level will facilitate action on the provisions of this Policy. The NCAG will monitor the progress of implementation under these Plans.

Area of Concerns

  • The policy does not mention how it will ensure child participation at various levels of governance.
  • Neither operational guidelines to pursue the policy nor institutional mechanisms in terms of making various ministries responsible are mentioned in the policy.
  • No goal and / or target with regard to the Educational, Health, Nutrition and Protection rights of children is mentioned in the policy document.
  • The policy does not make clear commitments on budgets of various ministries, nor protection of existing special entitlements to disadvantaged and vulnerable children.

Viresh Prasad

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