Initiatives such as ‘Smart City’ project cannot be successful unless children are provided with a safe and secure environment, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju Friday said as he described the statistics on sexual abuse of children in the country as discouraging.
The minister further said that the statistics pose serious questions before the policy makers.
“It is saddening to see the figures of sexual abuse of children in India are not very encouraging… I believe that for a society or a country, the level of progress is determined by how safe the children are.
“Though many child protection legislations have been brought by various governments, incidents of child abuse pose serious questions before policy makers,” Rijiju said while releasing a report on urban children in India.
“The critical area of safety of children cannot be overlooked. Initiatives such as smart city cannot be successful otherwise… No city can be a smart city if children are not safe in it,” he added.
‘Forgotten Voices: the world of urban children in India’, a report compiled by PwC India and Save the Children, aims at providing a reality check on the situation of urban children as varying patterns of migration to cities across India make them increasingly vulnerable to a variety of risks.
Noting that the figures of crime against children in two major cities — Delhi and Mumbai — are disappointing, Rijiju said, “Crime against children is something which really strikes the mind. It really effects the way we think about security of our society.”
“We must have a mechanism to deal with that and have a proper data… As it is the figures we have are not encouraging, but we need to analyse much deeper to ensure that our security apparatus functions to ensure that no child is subjected to any kind of abuse,” he added.
Rijiju said, “As a minister, I should not only speak about good things. I believe in speaking my mind… Sometimes I do fall in trouble when I speak my heart out, but we should speak about things that are not good.”
According to the report, India’s demographic dividend can only be realised if cities improve their performance in areas such as urban governance, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education, child protection, and urban resilience.
Of the 377 million urban Indians, 32 per cent are children below the age of 18 years.
The report also indicates that while tremendous progress has been made on the ‘hardware’ front in terms of developing city infrastructure, not enough attention has been paid to the ‘software’ which is the quality of service delivery.
“The report clearly shows how urban children across India are becoming increasingly vulnerable as populations in cities explode to bursting point with different challenges being thrown up.
“The solution lies in making our cities child-friendly. We urge policy makers to duly take these suggestions while they plan 100 smart cities in the country,” said Harpal Singh, Chairman of Save the Children.
The report recommends that for inclusive cities, a child-led planning process is essential since it allows children to provide solutions to the challenges that they encounter.
It also notes that data on urban child health is both limited as well as difficult to analyse for useful information and there is a need to generate evidence on indicators of child health, specifically looking at poor versus non-poor and slum versus non-slum.
“Urban schemes should be designed to address the specific needs of children and sufficient budgets should be allocated for this. There is also a need to replicate child-friendly programmes through child participation and redesigning of long term urban development plans through a child’s lens.
“We hope that this report will play a key role in highlighting the importance of including the needs of children in India’s urban development plan,” Deepak Kapoor, Chairman of PwC India, said.