The political battles, verbal spats, and political promises have begun to appear on the stage with regards to Assam Elections 2021. The CAA movement and various other factors have given rise to a few nationalistic parties of varied ideologies. News Debates, shows, interviews of emerging leaders can be viewed every day. We have even fought on issues like supply of beef to tigers in the zoo. Issues of citizenship, land rights, unemployment, price rise, corruption in government jobs are always on the top of the chart when election approaches in Assam. But amidst this, as a concerned citizen, I feel what about our children?
Why no such hue and cry on how to ensure that all children have equal opportunity? Do we not realise that India is in a stage of demographic dividend and we need to capitalise on this? Will we vote for the political parties who listen to the needs of our children in Assam, learn from it, and execute the plans? Will we vote for those who promise to strengthen institutions that supply essential services to our children? Will we elect leaders or MLAs who promise to build the infrastructures for government schools which have deteriorated badly? My experience of sitting in a government school in Guwahati and appearing for the CDPO exam and NET exam in 2019 in Dibrugarh was pathetic. Are we taking into account whether Creche Facilities are available in the tea gardens of Assam, as recommended under the Plantation Labor Act?
Are we keeping notice of how the poor and marginalised children of Assam are adjusting to the newly introduced mode of online teaching or education- do they have the resources to access it? Only promoting at the government institution-level won’t ensure a successful model of online education till there are efforts to make this mode of education accessible, affordable, and adaptable.
Why Children should be the focus?
Before going into facts and figures that showcase the poor status of children in Assam, let’s refresh our general knowledge as responsible adults and remind ourselves why children’s issues should be at the centre of the election promises.
First of all, children are not part of the adult decision-making world but they have vision and expectations and we see them grow as individuals as well as the world. Children are most vulnerable to any action or inaction. They not only form the future but are also the present assets. Let’s have a glimpse of the stats and figures-
1. The honourable Union Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal in Feb 2020 has mentioned that the school dropout rate in primary and secondary classes is highest in Assam in the country
2. Despite global and national efforts malnutrition among children seems to be a major issue in the state of Assam. As per National Family and Health Survey-4 Assam has 36.4% stunted children, 17% wasted, and 29.89% underweight children. Anyone working in the nutritional sector would understand and realise how vulnerable is Assam as a space for children with regards to protecting their nutritional entitlements.
3. A report on child marriages by the National Commission for protection of Child Rights put the rate of child marriages in Assam at 16.7%- higher than the national average of 11.9%. So if we had thought that issues like child marriage were an outdated thing, these statistics would surely open your eyes.
4. According to data published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Assam stands at 13th position in terms of number of child labor in the country
5. A study on Anemia “Haemoglobinopathies – major associating determinants in the prevalence of anaemia among adolescent girl students of Assam, India” reported that the overall prevalence of anaemia among adolescent girl students of Assam is as high as 71.5%
6. News of government schools of Assam degrading due to financial strain is not new. On Nov 2, 2020, an article was published in G Plus reported that The prestigious Cotton Collegiate Government Higher Secondary School, situated in the heart of Guwahati – Panbazar – is slowly acquiring the shape of ruins. Today, it is a campus full of dilapidated buildings.
There may be many more to write, but hopefully, these poor indicators with respect to education and health are enough to validate why children of Assam needs attention. The focus should be laid on the fact that every party comes up with ideas or promises which ensure safeguarding every children’s right to care and protection. Most importantly a party should have vision on how they are going to handle the issues of children in a post COVID situation. What are the new changes be it legislative or executive we are going to witness which will ensure safeguarding every child’s right to health and nutrition. Last, but not least is how the right of our children’s right to education/early childhood care and education are going to be fulfilled. Do we really care for our future and present assets?