Vice President calls for well-strategized, collective action on multiple fronts to ensure well-being of young children

The Vice President, Shri M Venkaiah Naidu today called for a well-strategized collective action on multiple fronts to ensure well-being of young children for India to take full advantage of demographic dividend.

Child development should be the foundation of our development architecture, the Vice President said while releasing ‘The State of Young Child in India’ report, a comprehensive account of the challenges related to early child development in India.

The report has been prepared by Mobile Creches a policy advocacy organisation which works with the underprivileged children across India. Appreciating the report, Shri Naidu said that such reports help in policy formulation by developing greater understanding of the shortcomings and urgent needs of the children. He also appreciated the publisher Taylor & Francis Group for making the digital copy of report freely available for everyone.

Underlining the importance of ensuring healthy, happy, caring and playful early years for children for their holistic development, he observed that adequate nutrition and positive caring environment at home play an important role in a child’s development. The years from birth until the age of five were critical, he pointed out.

Shri Naidu said that for healthy development, children should grow up in an environment where their emotional, social, educational and other needs are fully met. Educated and healthy people with a good foundation in the early years contribute to the financial and social wealth of their societies.

Pointing out that poor nutrition hampers physical as well as intellectual development of children, Shri Naidu said it would make them vulnerable to illness and affect their performance in school. “We need to understand the crucial importance of this aspect of national development and take effective steps to ensure all children have a healthy start to their lives”, he added.

Quoting from the report, the Vice President said that of the 159 million children aged below 6 years in India, 21 per cent are undernourished, 36 per cent are underweight and 38 per cent do not receive full immunization. “These figures underline the crucial importance to invest in early childhood for realizing the full potential in later years”, he stressed.

Referring to several comprehensive policies and flagship programmes like the ICDS and India’s conscious efforts to meet the international commitments like the UN Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC), he said the challenges were still huge and need to be addressed.

Shri Naidu said it was important for all stakeholders, including the government, policy makers and civil society organizations to intensify their efforts in ensuring the well-being of the young child through better policies and effective programmatic interventions.

Maintaining that the children are our future, the Vice President said “we should take care of them”. He emphasised the need for uplift of the last man in true spirit of Antyodaya as espoused by Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay.

Ms. Amrita Jain, Chairperson of Mobile Creches, Ms Devika Singh, Co founder of Mobile Creches, Ms Sumitra Mishra, Executive Director, Shri Sanjay Kaul, IAS (Retd), Member, Dr Shashank Sinha, Publishing Director of Taylor and Francis Group, Dr Anuradha Rajivan, IAS (Retd), Lead technical advisor, Shri N Ram, former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu were among the dignitaries who participated in the virtual release of the report.

Following is the full text of the speech-

“I am extremely pleased to release the ‘State of the Young Child in India’ report. It is a comprehensive account of the challenges related to early child development in India and it also makes a set of recommendations on how to address them.

I must compliment everyone associated with bringing out this informative book, which will be useful to all the stakeholders from policy-makers to academics. All of us realize the importance of ensuring healthy, happy, caring and playful early years for children. All of us care for their well-being and holistic development.

It is well-known that the years from birth until the age of five are critical. Adequate nutrition and positive caring environment at home play an important role in a child’s development.  For healthy development, children should grow up in an environment where their emotional, social, educational and other needs are fully met.

 A good foundation in the early years makes a difference through adulthood and even gives the next generation a better start. Educated and healthy people participate in, and contribute to, the financial and social wealth of their societies.

As you all are aware, poor nutrition hampers physical as well as intellectual development of children. It makes them vulnerable to illness and affects their performance in school.

It is estimated that early childhood stunting affects nearly one-in-four children younger than five globally due to lack of nutrition.  As mentioned earlier, under-nutrition and poor sanitation – can lead to developmental delays and a lack of progress in school. For a country, poor early childhood development could mean economic loss. We need to understand the crucial importance of this aspect of national development and take effective steps to ensure all children have a healthy start to their lives.

It has been mentioned in the just released report that of the 159 million children aged below 6 years in India, 21 per cent are undernourished, 36 per cent are underweight and 38 per cent do not receive full immunization. These figures underline the crucial importance to invest in early childhood for realizing the full potential in later years.

The report also pointed to the insurmountable evidence of the huge returns on investment in Early Childhood Development (ECD) at the individual, household and country levels. “Proper nutrition, stimulation and care during the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to the second birthday) has a profound impact on the child’s ability to grow, learn and rise out of poverty, and in the process shape society’s long term stability and prosperity”, it was stated.

Based on ranking and values on the Young Child Outcome Index (YCOI), the report named Kerala, Goa, Tripura and Tamil Nadu to be among the top performers, while eight states– Assam, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar– with scores below the national average lagged behind.

The report has rightly pointed to the criticality of a holistic approach to development, including public awareness and parental education, improved living conditions with access to clean drinking water, proper sanitation and reliable primary healthcare service to make a difference to health and nutritional standards among children.

India has made considerable progress over the years in child welfare.

While the Government of India has introduced several comprehensive policies and flagship programmes like the ICDS and the national nutrition mission ( Poshan Abhiyaan) for Early Childhood Development in the country, the need of the hour is to implement them effectively through proper coordination among various ministries.

The Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) is an important initiative for early identification and intervention for children from birth to 18 years to cover 4 ‘D’s — Defects at birth, Deficiencies, Diseases and Development delays including disability

Similarly, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) is equally important to ensure protection, education and empowerment of the girl child.

The recently unveiled National Educational Policy rightly states that “the overarching goal will be to ensure universal access to high-quality early childhood care and education across the country in a phased manner.”

As you all are aware, India has been making conscious efforts to meet the international commitments like the UN Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), and more importantly the sustainable development goals (SDG).

But the challenges are still huge and we need to address them.

It is important for all stakeholders, including the government, policy makers and civil society organizations to intensify their efforts in ensuring the well-being of the young child through better policies and effective programmatic interventions.

In other words, there should be well-strategized collective action on multiple fronts. Ensuring the well-being of the young child assumes greater importance if India has to take full advantage of its demographic dividend.

We must continue to focus our attention on early childhood care and education.

Child development should be the foundation of our development architecture.

Dear sisters and brothers, we are all reorienting our lives and adapting to a new normal in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted our routine. The adverse impact of the pandemic on poor and marginalized families and their children has been quite severe. This is the time for all of us to come to the help of the needy, display collective resilience and overcome the hardship caused by the pandemic. The lessons learnt in this pandemic should stand us in good stead to effectively tackle any future health emergency, especially in regard to the well-being of children and other vulnerable groups.

Before concluding, I once again compliment Mobile Creches (MC) and other organizations involved in bringing out this insightful report.

Categories: News