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No Swacch Bharat without children’s rights: Kailash Satyarthi

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Kailash_Satyarthi_March_2015New Delhi: Nobel laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi on Monday said the Indian laws still do not define child labour in a definitive way and that ‘Swachh Bharat’ cannot be attained if children’s rights are not protected.

How can the country be ‘Swachh Bharat’ (Clean India) if childhood is not protected and children do not have access to quality education, Satyarthi asked while lauding Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (Save girl child, educate girl child) campaign.

“Even if our country’s Gross Domestic Product is as high as 15 percent, it is still a challenge for India if children remain enslaved,” Satyarthi added while addressing a session on ‘Child rights and issues’ at the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“The Right to Education (RTE) Act has increased enrollment in schools, but drop-out rate has been equally high. This points to the need for quality education in our schools. The RTE is a fundamental right which opens the door to all other rights,” the Nobel Peace Prize winner laureate said.

According to a World Bank study, each dollar invested in education will give 15-fold returns in 20 years, he said, and sought from , the government, industries and civil societies liberal investments in children’s education.

Satyarthi is the founder of ‘Bachpan Bachao Aandolan’, an organisation aimed at protecting child rights.

“Child labour has to be defined in a more elaborate way under the law. Child labour within the family has remained a dicey aspect and has never been included under the Child Labour Act, which still has lacuna,” he said.

In cases where children help their family members at work, it should not be at the expense of their education, Satyarthi said.boy-330582_640

A child cannot be employed in hazardous conditions, despite being with family members, he said and added that the law has failed to include these areas under its ambit.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act has a list of 18 hazardous occupations and 65 processes which, he said, should be retained in amendments.

India has the largest child population in the world and the government pegs the number of child labourers around 45 lakh, while non-governmental agencies fix this figure at more than five crore, the child rights activist remarked.

“All children up to the age of 18 are entitled to care and protection and access to education under the law. Unfortunately, this has not been done in the past, but we need to make sure it is enforced properly,” Satyarthi added.

On the proposed legislation on juvenile justice, Satyarthi said the amendment to the Juvenile Justice Act is very important in dealing with cases where juveniles have committed heinous crimes like rape or murder.

The bill seeks to lower from 18 to 16 years the culpable age of a juvenile to be tried as an adult for heinous crimes. (IANS)

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Childhood is that part of life which cannot be forgotten, if children have memories like exploitation, physical violence, workers at an early age, it becomes very difficult for them to come out of it. Therefore, steps should be taken to enforce the child laws strictly and immediately

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Childhood is that part of life which cannot be forgotten, if children have memories like exploitation, physical violence, workers at an early age, it becomes very difficult for them to come out of it. Therefore, steps should be taken to enforce the child laws strictly and immediately

Next Story

Why Does Trump Separate Families, A Policy Or A Law?

A video released Monday by Customs and Border Protection

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In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, June 17, 2018.
In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, June 17, 2018. VOA

The Trump administration at least since April has been separating children and parents who enter the United States illegally at the border — that much is supported by the numbers. But much of everything else surrounding the practice has become mired in confusion.

Here is what we know:

In recent weeks, news stories of children in detention centers have circulated more widely, and the numbers of detained children have grown.

Department of Homeland Security officials told reporters Friday that between April 19 and May 31 of this year, nearly 2,000 (1,995) children were separated from their parents or other adults with whom they were traveling.

A video released Monday by Customs and Border Protection shows what appears to be humane conditions at a shelter site for children, but many worry that this video, the only video that has been released from within one of the detention centers, may not accurately depict them.

A policy or a law?

As criticism over the separation of parents and children at the border grows, the Trump administration has struggled to explain the policy.

Trump, himself, said the practice is the result of a law passed by Democrats, which has forced his administration into separating parents and children.

But there is no such law.

Rather in May, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance” policy, which means that those detained entering the United States illegally would be criminally charged. This approach generally leads to children being separated from their parents because the law requires it.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about religious liberty at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center's annual leadership mission in Washington, June 13, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about religious liberty at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s annual leadership mission in Washington, June 13, 2018, VOA

On Sunday, senior policy adviser to the Trump administration Stephen Miller told The New York Times that the crackdown “was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry. Period.”

Administration officials, including Miller and Sessions, have defended the separation of families, saying that having children does not exempt anyone from the consequences of breaking the law.

“If you cross the border unlawfully, even a first offense, we’re going to prosecute you. … If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” Sessions told a gathering of the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies.

The administration has said the new practice is directed at combating a “surge” of unlawful border crossings. But the “surge” appears to be numbers marking a return-to-normal after a dip last year.

Not a new idea

Though the practice of treating all people who cross the border unlawfully as subject to criminal prosecution is new under the Trump administration, it is built on existing policies from the Bush and Obama administrations.

Amid a surge of unlawful migration from Central America to the United States in 2014, the Obama administration considered many plans to deter illegal border crossings, including separating parents and children. Ultimately, Obama decided against separations but did expand the detention of immigrant families. New facilities were opened along the border, which held women and children for long periods of time before their cases were processed.

Following widespread criticism after photos of detained women and children, accompanied by testimonies of people being held for extended periods, a federal judge in Washington effectively ruled that asylum-seeking mothers could not be held for longer than 20 days, leading to what has been called a “catch and release” system where adults were released with GPS ankle monitors tracking their movements until their cases could be heard in court.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs' Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018.
=U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018. VOAU.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018.VOA

But this “catch and release” system has been heavily criticized by Trump and his administration.

Also read: Trump Launched A New Attack On Mueller Probe In Russia

“This get out of jail free card for families and groups who pose as families has spread,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. “The word of this has spread. The smugglers and traffickers know these loopholes better than our members of Congress. I’m sad to say that from October 2017 to this February, we have seen a staggering 315 percent increase in illegal aliens fraudulently using children to pose as family units to gain entry into this country. This must stop,” she said. (VOA)