According to a recent article in a leading newspaper 66% of Delhi's slum children are malnourished! Startling statistic particularly in a city known for its lavish lifestyle, sparkling malls, opulent parties and luxurious ways! The article goes on to say that the conditions of these kids have worsened due to the poor functioning of Government run schemes like ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme). Yes corruption that is rampant in our day and age also trickles down to schemes designed to benefit the poorest of the poor.
Malnourished children if they get nutritious meals later, have shorter average life, low immunity and are not properly developed. The first five years are essential to the growth of a child. These children belong to poor families with low income and no resources. They barely survive in the urban jungle where everything comes at a hefty price. Many of our creche children come from such families. Often their lunch box for the day has just a roti or a few biscuits. We of course give them a warm and nutritious lunch but how can that make up for the early years!
The ICDS was a great programme. It was launched in 1975 and had it met is goals no child would have been malnourished. However statistics reveal that in 2010, 44% of children in India were still malnourished. It seemed the programme was short of funds and running in abysmal conditions. Children have never been a priority, or should I say poor children have never been a priority. You just have to look at the state of schools! On the one hand hefty promises are made in election manifestos, programmes are launched amidst great fanfare, education becomes a constitutional right and yet on the ground nothing changes. A child still dies every 8,7 minutes of malnutrition and only 50 % children have access to school and of those that do make it 50% drop out! And that is not all 3 million children live on the streets, 150 million children work as bonded labourers and one out of every six girl child does not live to see her 15th birthday.
Something is terribly wrong and we should be hanging our heads in shame. And yet we do nothing. We still drive by read lights inured to the plight of children begging in the scorching sun shooing them as you would a pesky flight or at best dropping a coin in their proffered hand. We still read articles on malnutrition of children without batting an eyelid or feeling outraged and will waste food at the next wedding we attend!
Things will not change unless we as civil society wake up and do something. Poor children have no voice, we need to led them ours.