“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” — Nelson Mandela
If we were to take Mandela’s words to heart, we, as a nation, would possess a much kinder soul. Children are our most valuable resource. They are the clay that can be shaped to form the strong pillars of our future society. Unfortunately, there seems to be very little done to ensure their well being and safety. India is among the world’s worst countries for child safety. India is the 6th most unsafe country for children after the likes of Sudan, Uganda, Congo, Iraq and Somalia. Wonderful! We seem to be in the top 10 of at least one list. It is a matter of shame that a nation that aims to be the next superpower is unable to ensure a life of safety for its most vulnerable citizens.
Last week, there was a horrific case of a 6 year old girl Anusha who died by falling into SÄmbar. Really, it sounds so ridiculous. But the sad truth is that Anusha, a first grade student of Government High School, D Palya, Bangalore fell into a vessel of hot SÄmbar while jostling for space to stand in a queue to avail the mid-day meal. She sustained severe burn injuries, struggled for around 12 hours and breathed her last in the Victoria Hospital. The cooks failed to ensure that the children were at a safe distance from the hot vessels. The case of negligence in children’s safety is not rare. Just last month, the ‘Midday Meal Tragedy’ as it was called, made the rounds in national media. On 16 July 2013, children at the Dharmashati Gandaman primary school, Bihar complained that their lunch, served as a part of the Midday Meal Scheme, tasted odd. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Thirty minutes after eating the meal, the children complained of stomach pain and soon after were taken ill with vomiting and diarrhea. Around 27 children died of poisoning. Apparently the oil container that was used for cooking had previously stored organophosphate, an insecticide. There was the usual blame game by the political class deflecting their responsibilities.
There are daily news reports of children drowning, run down by trucks and killed by stray dogs. Sexual abuse and child labor are some of the dire challenges that children face. A 7 year old girl was raped in a popular school at Vasco, Goa by a stranger who came into the school. According to the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO), nearly 50 lakh children are employed as laborers. These dismal facts and statistics reflect the pathetic condition children in India. However, all hope is not lost. There are a lot of active organizations such as Child Rights and You (CRY) and Childline India Foundation that aim to better the lot of children. We can also do our part by engaging with similar organizations, show empathy towards children, make sure we think of their safety in our daily actions and most importantly, spread awareness. Only through the combined efforts of all of us as a society, can we make India a safer place for the children.