18 Jul 2011

Children in 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017): Nine Big ticket Recommendations

CHILDLINE India Foundation

Mumbai: The Consultations for 12th Five year Plan, which commences April 2012, have commenced.The 11th Plan marked the very first plan which earmarked Child Protection as its mandate. The Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) of the Ministry of Women and Child Development was approved in the 11th Plan but only commenced in the 3rd year of the Plan period. The 12th Plan , therefore, has to see the ICPS effectively rolled out and implemented. In order to ensure a significant impact is achieved on the development of children during the 12th Plan, CIF is making the following big-ticket recommendations for the 12th Plan.

1. Budgets for children: Despite of the 11th plan specifically commenting on inadequate budgets and the UPA making a manifesto commitment towards 9% share of Union budgets for children, the allocation is 4.5% of Union Budgets. It is imperative that the 12th Plan correct this and ensure that on a uniform basis, budgets for children account for 10% of Union Budgets. Children under 18 constitute over 43% of India's population. Our estimates are that 40% of all children in India are marginalized due to a variety of factors including poverty.

2. Age of children: While the 11th Plan set out to uniformly define age of children as below 18 and ensure all laws reflect this, this has not been achieved. Failure to achieve age rationalization is also a failure to meet UNCRC commitments by India. The 12th Plan has to set a goal of age rationalization across all laws/policies.

3. Consolidation of Child Related Governance: One of the most acutely critical issues in Governance is the segregation of Child related programs/policies/laws/protocols/processes amongst various ministeries. With little effective coordination and distributed accountability the system has been inefficient. The RTE is implemented by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. However, RTE being now a right for children in age group of 6-14, its implementation inevitably links with Child Rights/Child Protection issues- both of which fall under MWCD jurisdiction. The MHRD has no program of ensuring CR/CP interventions. Similarly, Ministry of Labour implements the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) however, rescue and rehabilitation of child labour is under MWCD. The objective of consolidating Women and child under a separate ministry now should be driven to its logical conclusion: All governance spaces for children- education, health, labour, etc - should be consolidated under a unified Department of Children under the MWCD. We recommend that the Department for School Education and Literacy and the NCLP projects be shifted under a unified Department of Children under the MWCD. Similarly responsibility for implementation of all laws related to Children should be transferred to the proposed dept under MWCD. This will ensure that the Department of Children will be accountable for all aspects of children's development until 18 years of age. 

4. Documenting and Reporting: One of the big issues in the governance of Child related spaces is the lack of a unified documenting and reporting across all states and across all departments dealing with Children. The Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MOSPI) has repeatedly highlighted the problems of putting together statistics of MDG goals citing the lack of appropriate formats for data gathering/documentation/reporting. We recommend that during the 12th Plan an uniform format of data gathering/documentation/Reporting be implemented across the GOI and across all states for all programs in the Children space. In addition and district level upwards MIS be initiated across the country. This will facilitate not only accurate reporting for Children's development in India but also allow for transparent Monitoring and Evaluation.

5. Consolidation of laws relating to Children: As is well known various laws have differing treatment for issues relating to children. The Juvenile Justice Act 2000 covers children in need of care and protection and children in conflict with law.  Separately THE RIGHT OF CHILDREN TO FREE AND COMPULSORY EDUCATION ACT 2009 (RTE) has clauses relating to physical punishment and mental torture. However this has not been defined. Similarly The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 does not comprehensively cover the issues relating to rehabilitation/restoration of rescued children. Many acts either do not comprehensively cover children related issues or give cursory coverage. Child Sexual Abuse is not covered in any law. Similarly the concept of "neglect" as indicated in JJ Act and in the National Charter for Children 2004 is not clearly defined in any law. "Neglect" is a huge issue with children in India. The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act also has several issues that need to be elaborated- the amendment to IPTA has been in abeyance for some time now. We recommend that the 12th Plan targets for a consolidation of all laws relating to children in all statues in a single comprehensive law covering Children. We also recommend that subsequent to this, the IPC and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPc) be comprehensively updated. We also recommend that CrPc lay down standards, processes and protocols for handling children at Police Stations, in Courts and during police related medical checkups at hospitals. The Goa Children's Act has laid down some standards for children in courts . However we need a national standard laid down in the CrPc.

6. Monitoring of Direct GOI programs: It has become the norm in most states that Children's programs are under spent by March every year. This is due to a combination of lack of budgets at the correct time each year or inadequate / inconsistent M &E of these programs. We propose that a separate M&E team be created under NCPCR with the mandate of direct M&E of those programs directly implemented by the GOI- both at centre and state levels. The current mandate for NCPCR does include M&E however, the NCPCR neither has the budgets nor the structure to take on the role of a program M &E body.  The M&E team would need to be a large program M&E team with the ability to independently report on program implementation. Such reports must be made public and the M&E process must be completely independently managed by NCPCR.

7. UID for Children: The GOI has earmarked Rs 1000 Crores for the implementation of the UID scheme. We recommend that the 12th Plan adopt a program to ensure that every child born anywhere in India receive a UID. This UID must be tracked throughout the child's life upto the age of 18. All schooling, hospitalization, travel etc must use this UID. The UID must entitle the Child to all rights enshrined in our constitution and under various statutes/policies/programs. The objective of the Children's UID scheme is to ensure that we can track children's development and be able to intervene when the child drops out of school or needs nutritional support or health care etc. Even for missing children such a UID scheme would be invaluable. The ICDS scheme of the GOI can help ensure that every pregnant mother is made aware of the Children's UID scheme. The digitally loaded UID would store the child's basic information and a centrally data base can track every Children's UID issued in India. 

8. Pre-Primary schooling: It has been assumed that the Pre-Schooling Program of ICDS run by Angan Wadi Workers (AWW) is adequate to meet the needs of preprimary schooling. The RTE has left out pre-schooling completely (possibly due to the fact that ICDS covers it). In actually fact ICDS has no systematic program for pre-schooling nor any defined standards for pre-schooling. The result is largely informal pre-schooling. Meanwhile the private sector, sensing a killing in an unregulated sector which also has no government presence, moved in and is making a killing with setting up chains of pre-schools on franchisee model. We recommend that the ICDS pre-schooling be restricted between 2.5 and 3 years only and be restricted to a play school. We recommend that pre-schooling for 3-6 yr olds be regulated, a standard defined and a PPP model developed for implementation by NGOs in a partnership with the government. The GOI needs to set up an institute to undertake research in pre-schooling pedagogy and ensure that existing Govt. funded teacher training institutions offer specialized and certified training to Pre-school teachers. The govt. supported certified pre-school program implementation would ensure that children across India receive a standardized pre-schooling in the critical years of their brain development and be as uniformly ready as relatively affluent middleclass child in urban India is. The program would also be enormously popular with citizens as it would ensure a level playing field for all children as they enter Class 1. 

9. Linkages with Poverty alleviation programs: We recommend that the 12th Plan achieve linkages between ICDS/ICPS and poverty alleviation programs, particularly NREGA. We recommend making it mandatory that all beneficiaries of poverty alleviation programs ( such as NREGA) need to comply with norms that ensure their children are not working/ will not be sent to work/ will not be removed from school. Further we recommend that NREGA disbursements record the details of children of all beneficiaries so that local ngos in the CR/CP space can track such beneficiaries. This will have a huge effect on prevention of child trafficking which arises out of poverty.

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