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Anaemia on rise among children, cases of POCSO highest in UT: CFCI report

The initiative was taken with a vision to make the “best interest of children paramount during planning and management of the city,” and the mission to set the city on course to “becoming child friendly, evolved, adopted, implemented and monitored by administration.”

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Chandigarh |
Updated: October 25, 2021 3:52:42 am
The Chandigarh Education Department, as per the CFCI, admits that the number of rooms for students to sit in the government schools is very less when compared to the student strength.

A REPORT complied and presented by the Child Friend City Initiative (CFCI) in Chandigarh, conducted by Don Bosco Navjeevan Society between 2018-2021 has highlighted various lacunas that exist in several aspects of a child’s life including their education, health etc.

The initiative was taken with a vision to make the “best interest of children paramount during planning and management of the city,” and the mission to set the city on course to “becoming child friendly, evolved, adopted, implemented and monitored by administration.” The CFCI in Chandigarh focused and worked mainly on five child rights linked to Sustainable Development Goals including right to participation, health, education, play and leisure, and safety.

During year 1, a total of 20 wards were selected by the CFCI to implement the programme, which was later, during year 2, at the time of mid-term evaluation, decreased to eight wards only “for effective coverage and better utilisation of resource and manpower.” A Child Parliament, Child Caring Group or Child Safety Net have been set up outside the newly selected eight wards, will continue to function.

Migrants neglective of their children, says Report

With rapid urbanisation in the city, it reads, “people who have lack of work in their villages are moving fast to the cities. Migrants are coming out of villages of poor states in search of work can neither buy nor rent expensive houses in cities then there is only one solution for them to live in slums. Due to that slum population is increasing fast in Chandigarh,” the report noted.

The report, however, makes a sweeping generalisation, that does not account for the living conditions of the underprivileged in the country. “Due to the ignorance of these parents, in many colonies and slums of Chandigarh, children are unable to go to school. The Chandigarh Education Department also believes that due to the children of migrant people, the school results are bad because the migrant people do not pay attention towards the education of their children. Children coming from migrant societies are not regular in studies, take many holidays and do not show seriousness towards studies due to that the result is bad,” the report states.

The Chandigarh Education Department, as per the CFCI, admits that the number of rooms for students to sit in the government schools is very less when compared to the student strength. “Due to this the teacher-student ratio is not encouraging, and it creates problem in providing quality education to the children.”

Impact of Covid-19 on school education

As per the report, before the rise of Covid-19, the number of children who have dropped out of school and who were never enrolled in schools has decreased in Chandigarh. The Child Mapping Survey (CMS) 2020 carried out by the UT education department under Right to Education Act has found that out of 1,66,589 students identified between the ages of 5 to 18, as many as 3,160 were drop-outs and 3,252 had never been enrolled in school. In 2019, the number of children who had dropped out of schools and had never enrolled was much higher at 3,810 and 3,369 respectively. The maximum dropouts were found in the 14 to 18 age group with 2,269 such cases. In 11-14 age brackets, 432 dropouts were identified while in 5 to 11, 459 dropouts were found. Out of the children who never enrolled in school, 2,722 are aged between 5 and 11, 258 are aged between 11 and 14 and 302 are aged between 14 and 18. Due to the pandemic-induced migration of families, the number of children in the 5 to 18 group also went down during the first wave of Covid. In 2019 1,72,982 students were identified in the survey while the number has gone down to 1, 66,589 in 2020, reduced by 6,393.

Cases of anaemia in Chandigarh increasing rapidly

According to the Directorate of Health Services Chandigarh, the cases of anaemia in children are increasing rapidly in the city. Anaemia has been found to be less in children of local population whereas children living in villages and of migrant communities are more prone to anaemia. The biggest reason is that children are not getting balanced food. They are becoming malnourished and anaemic due to lack of good food.

Cases of POCSO highest in Chandigarh amid Tricity

“The police departments of Tricity, Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali, have an unbelievable 418 registered cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act from January 2014 till date. And the city beautiful, Chandigarh, tops the list with 221 cases,” the report reads. Mohali stood second with 97 cases and Panchkula a close third with 90 registered cases.

Thus, to provide safety to children, the CFCI has formed safety nets with the help of Anti Human Trafficking Unit, Chandigarh. “CFCI team has been able to set up 25 safety nets in various sensitive areas adjoining the bus stand including Sector 42, 43 and Kajheri, Sector 52, Sector 25, Ramdarbar, Dhanas,” they say.

At the community level, auto drivers, taxi drivers, rag pickers, dhabawalas, Market Welfare Associations, and Resident Welfare Associations have been taken into the caring groups. Many markets have been declared as Child Labour Free Zone by CFCI in association with Market Welfare Association and Chandigarh Labour Cell. The councillors of different municipal wards also came forward and gave a lot of support to CFCI team in eliminating child labour.

Child Caring Groups and communities have been formed by the CFCI team involving parents of children in all slum settlements, rehabilitation colonies and villages of Chandigarh. Children are being sensitised on road safety. Along with this, through various drives the attention of the local administration has also been brought towards the road safety of the children. Many teachers and students of government and private schools, duty bearers, service providers and NGO workers have been explained about JJ Act and POCSO Act.

Success stories

The report goes on to cite three “success stories” during the span of three years of the initiative which reflect on how the methods used by the CFCI helped children grow.

“The Children Parliament of Kaimbwala village got their washroom and classroom properly cleaned by the school authorities. One of the girls shared a story that her school’s washrooms and classrooms are not cleaned and how she discussed this problem with her classmates and the whole class came forward seeking the help from the principal. Principal of the school acknowledged the issue of the children and ordered the sweeper to clean the washrooms daily. With the help of the children’s intervention now the washrooms are properly cleaned,” the report reads.

Further, “Voice raised by a 12-year girl against violation: Her grandmother loathing the female grandchild to an extent where the child was starved, emotionally abused and relentlessly taunted as her wishes were fulfilled by her hardworking father. Due to the tireless efforts of Don Bosco towards a child friendly Chandigarh, multiple Child Parliaments for overhauling the youth were set up. From one of these comes the success story where a girl was able to identify the emotional abuse meted out towards her and her display of intellectual integrity and acuity to call childline and seek a helping hand. The girl whose father was sent to the jail by her grandmother and aunt (bua) took a step in which she called Chandigarh Childline 1098 and sought help from them, the childline team went there and met the child, the child told them what happened. After few hours of the official procedure the father was out from the jail. The father left his mother and sister and now he is living separately with his Children,” the report says.

Dismal situation, urgent need for measures

The report also cites several figures which show the deprivation children face in India. “Official figures indicate that there are over 12.66 million child-workers in India, but many NGOs reckon the real figure is up to 60 million—this translates to 1 in 8 (12 percent) children between 5–14 years who work. India has the largest number of child labourers in the world under 14 years of age. Two-thirds of children are victims of physical abuse and half face emotional abuse. Over 50 percent have faced some kind of sexual abuse and over 20 percent of them severe abuse,” the report says.

Quoting other official statistics, the report reads, “40 per cent of India’s children are vulnerable. (Ministry of Women and Child Development, 2015). 38 per cent of children in India are stunted. (NFHS 4, 2015-16). 28 million children are homeless. This means that, they lack proper housing, nutritious food, proper education and do not have a minimum standard of living (UNICEF). 33 million children are engaged in child labour in India (UNICEF). Out of 165 countries, India ranks between 85-95 on child rights environment in the country. The indicators for this are non-discrimination, best interest of the child, best available budget et al (Kids Rights Index, 2017).”

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