Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday 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, the Vice President 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.
The Vice President 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, he 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 international commitments like the UN Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC), he said the challenges were still huge and need to be addressed.
The Vice President 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 the 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 and Shri N Ram, former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu were among the dignitaries who participated in the virtual release of the report.