Children from across the country were ‘sworn in’ to form a National Inclusive Children’s Parliament (NICP) last week to discuss child rights and the Union Budget 2020. The 75 young advocates, part of Nine is Mine campaign for child rights advocacy, pledged to create an inclusive India with their formula of “last-child as their first priority.”
Leading the Parliament, at the Don Bosco School in Sukhdev Vihar, was 13-year-old Ram Kumar, the ‘president’ of NICP. Clad in a crisp white kurta-pyjama and holding a placard of Right to Education, Ram emphasised on the need for quality education. Quoting a budget report by Haq, another NGO for child rights, he said, “The share of child education in the Union Budget stands only at 2.18 per cent.
“The government’s responsibility is not only to grant the right to education to children but also to allocate funds for quality education including better infrastructure, more teachers, mid-day meal schemes and for better growth of children,” said the Class 8 student in a government school in Delhi.
Citing the example of Kashmir, Kajol, 11, the vice-president of NICP, from West Bengal said children in conflict areas suffer the most. “Schools were shut for months in Kashmir recently. Children’s education was affected, many stopped going to school in fear. Children in conflict zones suffer both mentally and physically.”
According to the report by Haq, the children’s share in the budget has dropped from 3.29 per cent in 2019-2020 to 3.16 per cent in 2020-2021. Allocation for child protection also declined marginally, by 1.43 per cent in this budget.
The organiser of NICP, Brother Steve Rocha, said the aim behind starting an inclusive ‘parliament’ of children is to encourage children to voice their concerns, become problem solvers and learn the language of rights.
“Budget for children seems to have become more about accounting practice and number crunching than planning for the well-being of children. It is important to include even the last vulnerable child to create a secure space for children in our country, “ he said.
“Children’s participation should be a priority now, it will not only help the government to understand the concerns of vulnerable children but it will also help allocate budget for them in an effective way,” added Rocha.
After undergoing a nine-day training on the Union Budget, rights, law and global goals related to children in New Delhi, the children have taken up a 99-day challenge to address the issues related to children in their respective states.
The newly elected ‘prime minister’ of NICP, Premkit Lepcha, a tribal girl from remote Dzongu, North Sikkim, said she will write letters to the police to ensure that no child is trafficked or abused.
Similarly, young Chondu Mihu from Arunachal Pradesh said he would hold a panchayat for children in his village every week to address their concerns with the help of the village sarpanch and schools teachers.
During their training session, the children also listed out 17 goals that included zero hunger, gender equality and children’s protection.
The core team of NICP, which attended the Delhi assembly session in November 2019, aims to represent children in each and every state assembly session to express state-wise concerns.
Ram, concluding the ‘parliament session’, pledged to work for “all rights for children.”
The Nine is Mine campaign is convened by Pratyek and has a large network of NGOs from across the country. It also aims at sending 100 ‘child parliamentarians’ to Parliament in 2020.
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