ByÂ Roshni Balaji:
Recently over 60 children were denied admissions in schools across various states just because they were infected with HIV. It’s alarming to note that such children face continued discrimination despite knowing the fact that AIDS is a non-communicable disease. Why are they treated so unfairly? What is their fault? The answer would be- Nothing.
Besides, there are several AIDS awareness campaigns and integrated health development programs that are frequently organized across the country. Apart from this even NGOs have started giving some exclusive attention to this issue. It’s ironical that schools, colleges and universities themselves take an initiative towards acquainting students in this regard, and ultimately hold back when it comes to admission. Having a meagre percentage of reservation for children infected with HIV is a terrible option. The nation has faced enough turmoil and discord when 7-15% of the seats were retained for SC/ST’s and OBC’s. Inflicting humiliation upon innocent and vulnerable children is simply not justifiable. It’s hard to believe that it is the well-educated people who are the culprits. Things have not changed and we are heading nowhere. The so called creamy layer of our society continues to suppress the susceptible lot.
Probably it indicates dearth of laws. India has enacted laws to protect the rights of various sections including those suffering from disability. But, unfortunately there is no law to safeguard the rights and interests of the people languishing from AIDS. In fact, such ill-treatment towards children goes against the law guaranteeing the right to free and compulsory education to children which came into effect from April 1st, 2010. Sources claim that there is ‘no clear‘ policy to deal with such cases. Human Resources Minister Kapil Sibal exhibited an indifferent attitude towards this issue and refused to comment. Silence is not the key. The people ought to get an answer. Though the instances of violation of fundamental rights of these children are being recorded by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), no steps seem to be taken to address the contention. The Right to Education Act prohibits such discrimination on any ground.
The state governments are required to ensure implementation of the law in its letter and spirit. Andhra Pradesh tops the list with as many as five lakh cases, out of which 27 were reported by the NACO. Next up was West Bengal with 13 cases followed by 9 in Haryana, 4 in Kerala, 3 in Uttar Pradesh and 1 in Maharashtra. Of course, the number of cases is much higher than the data collected by the NACO.
According to a latest government report, the total number of people living with HIV in India is estimated to be around 2.4 million. This is not a pocket-sized number. Hence we need a strong legislation statute to address HIV/AIDS- its prevention, treatment and most importantly the manner in which we respond to the people affected by it.