The National Policy for Children, 2013

Government of India recently approved and adopted the National Policy of Children (NPC) 2013. Looking at the need to expand the scope of The National Policy of Children 1974, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) prepared the Draft National Policy for Children 2012 and invited comments from public in August 2012. Thereafter after receiving comments, on 26th April 2013, the NPC 2013 was formally adopted. The final document appears robust, refined and on prima facie appears to have incorporated a lot of suggestions given by civil society organizations and citizens in general.

In the Introduction note of NPC 2013 document, Government continues to restate children as ‘supremely important asset’. Government of India mentions about reiterating its commitment to secure the rights of its children by referring to ratifications of various related international convention and treaties. In the 2013 document there is an addition of Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against women.  This addition surely reiterates the fact that we as society cannot afford to deviate from our special attention to girl child.
NPC 2013 document also sees a separate section on Guiding Principles which was missing in Draft document. The Preamble is cut short from 9 points to key 4 points where as all others key points have been added in the section of Guiding Principles. In NPC 2013 overall reaffirmation sections sees a change in language with a special addition of ‘every child is unique and a supremely important national asset’. It is extremely heartening to see the change in language which is truly affirming state’s commitment to rights based approach in addressing the continuing and emerging challenges in the situation of children. Following is one such example reflecting the change in language in two documents.
…the state is committed to take proactive measures for inclusion of all children in accessing their rights, especially those….. (Draft NPC 2012)
..the state is committed to take affirmative measures – legislative, policy or otherwise to promote and safeguard the rights of the children to live and grow in equity, dignity and security and freedom, especially those…. (NPC 2013)
The Policy comprehensively and scrupulously details out children related aspects within each broad category viz Survival, Health Nutrition, Development, Protection and Participation.
Under the broad category of Survival, Health and Nutrition it is noticed that NPC 2013 gives more succinct and elaborate explanations. In the current document, the earlier mentioned Holistic health changes to comprehensive health whereas Preventive and curative changes to Preventive, promotive, curative and rehabilitative. There is also special care taken in restating importance on every stage of maternal health care and delivery where there are additions with mentions of antenatal care, post-natal care and nutrition support. Survival Health and Nutrition category in NPC 2013 also talk about additional three points of pertaining to attention to adolescents, prevention of HIV infection transmission to children, care of children living with HIV and child safe product and services.

Under the category of Education the first and foremost addition is mention of 6 to 14 years age group of children to be in school and to be able to enjoy the fundamental right to education enshrined by the Constitution of India. The policy defines the child as a person who has not completed 18 years of age however with respect to primary education this one aspect has been separately mentioned. NPC 2013 still carries some ambiguity surrounding secondary education. Draft document stated ‘Promote quality education up to the secondary level for all children’ where as NPC 2013 mentions ‘promote affordable and accessible quality education up to secondary level for all children’. There is also a mention of vocational training and age specific and a gender-specific career choice option which was no where mentioned in the earlier draft.
The most impressive insertion in the Education section is the following:

Ensure that all out of school children such as child labourers, migrant children, trafficked children, children of migrant labour, street children, child victims of alcohol and substance abuse, children in areas of civil unrest, orphans, children with disability (mental and physical), children with chronic ailments, married children, children of manual scavengers, children of sex workers, children of prisoners, etc. are tracked, rescued, rehabilitated and have access to their right to education

The above insertion in NPC 2013 has been exceptional in terms of mentioning each categorization of the most marginalized children, their vulnerability and thus special attention for them to access their right to education.
The NPC also sees certain small add-ons such as ensuring all teaching and learning processes are child friendly and respect of children’s culture and roots. Aspect of children’s health monitoring in school and special attention for children with special needs also gains special mention in the policy document.

Under the sub category of Protection there is a mention of ‘The State shall create a caring, protective and safe environment for all children, to reduce their vulnerability in all situations and to keep them safe at all places, especially public spaces’ The statement though very strong but it is unclear why there appears a special mention of public spaces.

There is a very welcome and distinct statement with respect to handling the issue of child protection. Along with child friendly jurisprudence, progressive legislation a strong statement
‘effective enforcement of punitive legislative and administrative measures against all forms of child abuse and neglect’ has been added. This is surely a very welcome move with respect to gravity of child abuse issue which our children face today.

The section of Participation sees an addition of mention of children with disability. In fact the whole document comprehensively encompasses mention of children with disability and their special needs.

In the section of a Advocacy and Partnerships the NPC 2013 has special mention of state’s plan to raise public awareness on child rights and entitlements among all stakeholders like parents, care-givers/guardians, functionaries and duty bearers. This part was not mentioned in the earlier draft document.

Under the section of Coordination, Action and Monitoring there are two significant additions. First, formation of coordination of Action Groups at state and district levels along with National Coordination and Action Group (NCAG). The Ministry of women and child development in consultation with other ministries and departments will formulation National Plan for Children and similar plans would be formulated by State and District level, where as the National, state and district CAGs would then monitor the same.

Secondly, the policy document also states the role of NCPCR with respect to ensure that the principles of the Policy are respected in all sectors/levels in formulation laws, policies and programs affecting children. 

In India, we have a lot of ambiguity with respect to the definition of children across Child Rights related policies and Acts. This is one of the policy which defines any person below the age of eighteen as child. The commitments listed in this Policy are certainly put out in a good spirit of ensuring children's rights are promoted and protected. I hope we as a nation rise together to address all issues related children and them in fore front as our primary obligation towards our little citizens. 

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