The birth anniversary of Independent India's first Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru on November 14 is celebrated as Children's Day throughout the nation. The day is filled with fun and frolic for children who enjoy as special arrangements are made in schools and educational institutions nationwide. We have grown up celebrating the day at schools where teachers would arrange for lip-smacking snacks. They would also sing and dance for us and it would be a day well spent.
But amidst all the enjoyment, we perhaps forget that in true spirits, a day like this is meant to be inclusive. It is meant to be for all children, irrespective of their caste, class, educational and financial background. As half the nation celebrates the day, eat, dance, and be merry, another half stays in the dark. For the poor and the deprived it is just another of the privileges that they have missed and probably will miss out on throughout their life.
It should not come as a surprise that of the around 152 million children worldwide working as child labourers, India accounts for about 7.3 percent of it. For them, today is not so different than any other day of the year, with a constant thought of having to work to provide for their families' largely meager earnings. With no opportunities to get an education, they do not have a real shot at having a different future. According to data published by Smile Foundation, less than half of India's children between the ages of 6 and 14 go to school. They further mention that a little over one-third of all who enroll in grade one reach grade eight. And at least 35 million children aged 6 – 14 years do not attend school at all.
Another evil that plagues the vulnerable future of these children is sexual abuse. And let's not shy away and deny that it, rather come up and speak against it. According to data published in National Crime Records Bureau, around 1.28 lakh cases of crimes against children were registered in 2020. Though it represented a decline from 2019, the classification of the crimes under different heads shows the harrowing variety of criminal acts. What is more saddening is the fact that around 96 percent of the sexual crimes against children were committed by someone known to them.
In light of so many obstacles in the lives of these children, are we really headed towards development? Pt. Nehru firmly believed that children were the future of the nation. Working towards this vision, the man had laid the foundation for premier institutions of education in the country. Remembering him on his birthday, can we really say the future of the nation is bright when every day the future of a child is dimmed out forever?