Greater concern for children

Print edition : September 11, 1999

ARE political parties becoming more sensitive to issues concerning children? The manifestoes of parties in the fray suggest that they are.

According to the Delhi-based Child Labour Action Network (CLAN), which studied the election manifestoes of eight parties vis-a-vis issues relating to children, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress(I), the Communist Party of India (Marxis t), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) have promised measures to abolish child labour. In the 1996 elections, according to the study, only two parties had referred to the issue, that too vaguely.

The TMC is for the "abolition of child labour". The NCP supports abolition of child labour and the introduction of compulsory primary education.

The CPI(M) promises "abolition of child labour and enforcing rights of children subjected to such exploitation." The BJP merely says that it will "take measures to eliminate child labour", without explaining how it will go about it.

The Congress(I) outlines some strategies to tackle the child labour problem. These include creation of special educational facilities in child-labour-endemic areas, strengthening of the mid-day meal and poverty alleviation programmes, and strict implemen tation of the legal provisions against the practice of child labour.

Primary education figures in almost all manifestoes this time; only three dealth with this subject in the 1996 elections. The manifestoes demonstrate an increasing awareness of the problems caused by low literacy levels and high drop-out rates.

The Congress(I) manifesto stresses that "girls and women belonging to the Dalit, Adivasi and other backward class and minority communities (should) have access to the best education and health facility by the end of the next decade." It states that "a ti me-bound programme for universalising access to elementary education for all children up to 14 by 2003 will be implemented and resources found for making this happen."

The Congress(I) has reiterated its commitment to increase the expenditure on education at least up to 6 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). It has also promised that 50 per cent of the expenditure on education will be earmarked for elementary e ducation.

The CPI(M) manifesto guarantees free and universal education for all children up to 14. According to CLAN chairperson Joseph Gathia, the CPI(M) is the only party among the eight parties, whose manifestoes were studied, to have said that the 83rd Constitu tional Amendment Bill, which has lapsed, must be revived in order to make education a basic right of children up to the age of 14.

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