As I head towards my college, tiny hands bang at the windows of my car, clad in tattered clothes, their empty eyes greet me with a red rose. At times they entertain me on traffic signals with their dances or singing while on railway stations or dhabas they serve as affordable servants or ‘chhotu’.
There might be many developmental issues but in my opinion nothing needs more attention than the so called ‘future of India’. If ignored, then we will breed a generation of school drop outs, rag pickers and beggars to take our nation forward.
The children of tomorrow whom we expect to lead India into a better and prosperous future. Perhaps, the hopes are high and the burden is too much to be sustained by a child. Perhaps, we are unaware of their value. The nurturing is missing, the fear evaded, the care ignored, and the innocence thwarted.
To define, the age at which a person ceases to be a child varies under different laws in India. Under the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986, a child is a person who has not completed 14 years of age. . But for the purposes of criminal responsibility, the age limit is 7 and 12 under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. For purposes of protection against kidnapping, abduction and related offences, it’s 16 years for boys and 18 for girls.
So, the Indian law is still undecided on the very definition of ‘child’.
This is not all the very survival of the Indian child is a matter of concern. Around 2.5 million children die in India every year. India is home to the highest number of child labourers in the world. India has the world’s largest number of sexually abused children. The Tare Zameen Par’s ‘reel’ kid might have created a niche in the hearts of millions but the ‘real’ kid still awaits an Aamir Khan for redemption.