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Strike balance between child rights and traditional skills: Khurshid

The Hindu - October 6, 2011. "Calling for striking a balance between preserving traditional skills and ensuring protection of rights of the child, Salman Khurshid, the Union Law and Justice Minister, on Thursday said the biggest challenge was to persuade the children involved in traditional skills to join the mainstream without alienating them from family talents."

"Citing the example of carpet-weaving in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir – where world's best carpets are made – Mr. Khurshid said if such traditional skills were to be preserved, a child needed to be trained to be a skilled craftsperson. “These skills are not taught in [the] Indian Institutes of Technology or any other professional institutions. These are imparted at home from one generation to another, and pulling children out from family setups has its own implications,” the Minister said, while delivering the keynote address at the 9{+t}{+h} Asia Pacific Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect here.

Mr. Khurshid clarified that children learning traditional skills should not amount to child labour since they worked within their family and not as employees. He said India had done a lot for children by amending the Juvenile Justice Act, guaranteeing education at primary level, and scheme for nutrition including the Mid Day Meal scheme; but much remains to be done. “It is not that we lack the will, sensitivity or commitment to prevent child labour; the issue is how to factor in the issues like child labour. Parents do not unnecessarily send their children to work, but economic conditions force them to do so,” he explained.

India has been under criticism for performing badly on preventing child labour, particularly in carpet-weaving, and some European Union countries do not buy products which are believed to involved child labour.

Children vulnerable

There are about 440 million children (below the age of 18 years) in India. It is estimated that about 40 per cent of them are vulnerable or experiencing difficult circumstances. The continued high birth rate adds 27 million babies each year. A large majority of these births are among the underprivileged section of the population, mostly unplanned and where parents cannot provide proper care to their children. The situation of the newborn, the periods of infancy and early childhood are particularly critical, and the morbidity and mortality rates continue to remain very high. Maternal under-nutrition, unsafe deliveries, low birth weight babies and poor newborn care, lack of adequate immunizations, poor nutrition, neglect of early development and education are major issues that need to be appropriately addressed.

The term “protection” readily relates to protection from physical abuse in its various forms; the extreme examples include child labour and sexual abuse. Child-rearing practices reflect social norms and, very often, adverse traditions are passed from one generation to the next, especially in illiterate and poorly informed communities, and are extremely resistant to alter.

The number of children needing care and protection is huge and increasing. Extreme poverty and illiteracy cause very little care to the child during the early formative years. Even services that are freely available are poorly utilized. The urban underprivileged, migrating population (a very sizable number) and rural communities are particularly affected. In large cities there are serious problems of street children, abandoned and often homeless, and those employed in menial work."

The article can be found at The Hindu


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