Issues Related to Children in India | UPSC Notes

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Issues Related to Children in India | UPSC Notes

The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 says that a child is anyone under 14 years old.

In India, children are seen as small versions of gods, but these “little gods” have a hard time getting along with other people. India is one of the developing countries that is growing the fastest. It also has the most child labourers of any country in the world.

In all of India’s big towns, there are a lot of children between the ages of 5 and 14 who beg in trains, sleep on the streets, live in slums, and work at the most innocent time of their lives. The main reasons why people give up their children are poverty, overpopulation, and lack of schooling. India also has one of the largest slums.

Violence against children is common in India, and it is a hard fact of life for millions of children from all social classes. Both girls and boys in India face early marriage, spousal abuse, sexual violence, violence at home and at school, trafficking, online violence, child labour, and bullying. All kinds of violence, abuse, and mistreatment of children have effects that last a child’s whole life.

Child issues in India include child labour, child marriage, child health and malnutrition, child abuse, child pornography, child prostitution, child mortality, gender bias against girl children, street children, forced begging, juvenile delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse among children, lack of access to education, etc.

Child Labour

• Child labour usually means that a child is paid or not paid to do any kind of physical work. India has a long history of this problem.

• Child labour is any kind of work done by children that takes away their childhood, makes it hard for them to go to school, or is mentally, physically, socially, or morally harmful and dangerous.

• According to the 2011 Census of India, there are 10.1 million working children between the ages of 5 and 14. Of these, 8.1 million work in rural areas, mostly as farmers (26%) and farm workers (32.9%).

• Even though the number of working children went down from 5% in 2001 to 3.9% in 2011, the rate of decline is far too slow to meet goal 8.7 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is to end all kinds of child labour by 2025.

• India is at the top of the list when it comes to how many children still live and work as slaves or in forced labour.

• If you start working at a young age, you run the risk of getting job diseases like skin diseases, lung diseases, weak eyesight, TB, etc.; you are more likely to be sexually exploited at work; and you miss out on school.

They don’t have the chance to get better as they grow up, so they end up working as poor labourers for the rest of their lives.

What causes children to work

• The number of children who aren’t in school is going up. UNESCO says that 38,1 million children aren’t in school.

• Economic crisis: When the economy slows down or shuts down, businesses and workers, especially those in the private economy, have less money coming in.

• Socioeconomic Challenges: The problem has gotten worse because of the return of foreign workers.

• Problems with the Indian economy: Even before the pandemic, India’s economy was growing more slowly and unemployment was going up.

• The “digital divide” is the lack of access to the internet and digital devices, which makes it hard for children to learn online and from a distance. According to the NSS Report, “Household Social Consumption on Education in India,” only 24% of Indian families had access to the Internet.

• Growth of the unorganised sector: Because of strict labour rules, businesses would rather hire temporary workers than hire them permanently.

• Weak Laws: Laws are not changed to reflect how important a situation is.

• Other reasons: increased economic uncertainty, loss of social protection, lower household income, and children from poor families Young people are being forced to work.

Impacts of child labour

• Affect a child’s childhood: Working as a child takes away his or her childhood. It takes away not only his or her right to school, but also his or her right to fun.

• Child labour affects adult life because it keeps kids from getting the skills and schooling they need to get good jobs when they grow up.

• Big health and physical risks, because they work long hours and have to do things for which they are not mentally or physically ready. Working in dangerous settings hurts a child’s physical and mental health and slows down his or her mental, emotional, and intellectual growth.

• Poverty: Working as a child is both a cause and a result of being poor. When a family is poor, children have to go to work to make money. This means they miss out on a chance to go to school, which keeps the family poor for more generations.

• Affect the country as a whole: Having a lot of kid labourers has long-term effects on the economy and is a big problem for the country’s social and economic well-being.

Child Labour: Constitutional And Legal Provsions

Article 21A of the Indian constitution says that all children between the ages of 6 and 14 have the right to a free and required education. From 2001 to 2011, the number of children working in India went down. This shows that the right mix of policy and organisational changes can make a difference.

• Article 23 of the Indian Constitution says that any kind of forced work is against the law.

• Article 24 says that children younger than 14 cannot be hired to do dangerous work.

• Article 39 says that workers’ health and strength, as well as children’s young age, are not mistreated.

• In the same way, the Child Labour Act (Prohibition and Regulation) of 1986 says that kids under 14 can’t work in dangerous jobs or businesses.Policy changes like MGNREGA 2005, the Right to Education Act 2009, and the Mid Day Meal Scheme have made it possible for children to go to school and for rural families to have guaranteed (unskilled) wage jobs. The Indian government has also shown its commitment to ending child labour by ratifying International Labour Organisation Conventions Nos. 138 (Minimum age convention) and 182 (Worst forms of Child Labour Convention) in 2017.

Situation of Child Labour in India:

• From 1991 to 2011, the number of children working as child labourers went down by 100 million. This shows that the right mix of policy and programmatic interventions can make a difference. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out a lot of the progress that had been made.

• The Covid-19 problem has made these already poor people even poorer, and it could set back years of progress in the fight against child labour, says the ILO.

• A report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF says that the pandemic could force 9 million more children to work around the world by the end of 2022.

• In India, the pandemic has led to the closing of schools and an economic problem for low-income families. These are likely factors that push children into poverty and lead to child labour and unsafe migration.

• A study by Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) shows that the number of working children has gone up from 28.2% to 79.6% among the 818 children who were examined. This is mostly because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closing of schools.

• India’s children are dropping out of school and going to work on farms and in workplaces because of the coronavirus pandemic. This is making a problem that was already one of the worst in the world.

• Children who have lost their parents are more likely to be trafficked or used in other ways, like being made to beg or work. In these kinds of families, older children may also drop out of school to help take care of their younger brothers.

Children are seen as a stopgap measure to fill jobs left open by migrant workers who left cities for their rural homes during the lockdown. According to a poll by the CACL, more than 94% of children said that the economic crisis at home and pressure from their families pushed them to work. During the outbreak, most of their parents had lost their jobs or were making very little money.

• During the shutdown, a civil society group for children’s rights called Bachpan Bachao Andolan saved 591 children from forced work and bonded labour in different parts of India.

According to India’s 2011 Census, 55% of all the children who work in the country do so in five large states.

What the Pandemic Meant

• The coronavirus pandemic is causing children in India to stop going to school and work on farms and in factories. This makes a problem that was already one of the worst in the world even worse.

• ILO: The Covid-19 problem has made these already poor people even poorer, and it could set back years of progress in the fight against child labour.

• The national lockdown put millions of people in poverty, which makes it easier for people to move children from villages to cities so they can work for less money.

• Closing schools has made the situation worse, and many millions of children have to work to help pay the bills. Women, men, and children are also more likely to be abused because of the outbreak.

• The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says that about 25 million people could lose their jobs. People who work in informal jobs will be hardest hit by this pandemic because they don’t have any social support.

• A weekly tracker study by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) shows that COVID-19 has already caused the urban unemployment rate to rise to 30.9%.

• Children who have lost their parents are more likely to be trafficked or used in other ways, like being made to beg or work. In these kinds of families, older children may also drop out of school to help take care of their younger brothers.

• Children are seen as a stopgap solution to fill jobs that migrant workers left empty when they left cities to go back to their homes in the country during the lockdown.

• During the shutdown, a civil society group for children’s rights called Bachpan Bachao Andolan saved 591 children from forced work and bonded labour in different parts of India.

Problems that policymakers face when it comes to child labour

• One of the biggest problems with getting rid of child labour is that different rules don’t agree on how old a child is when it comes to the definition of a child.

• Lack of ID: In India, it’s hard to figure out how old a child is because there aren’t any ID papers. Child workers often don’t have proof that they went to school or that they were born. This makes it easy to take advantage of a gap in the law. Most of the time, no one knows about the children of foreign workers who work as labourers or in domestic work.

• Weak implementation of the law and bad governance: Corruption and a lack of strong deterrents make it hard to get rid of child labour.

• The pandemic is making it harder to police laws against child labour. There are fewer inspections of workplaces and less effort to catch people who traffic people.

• NGOs say that the real rise in child work hasn’t happened yet. When the economy starts to grow faster, there is a chance that people will move back to the cities with their children.

• Children’s access to schooling, basic nutrition, and other important things for their development and well-being have taken a big hit, and many more children are being forced to work. Conditions for children who already work have also gotten worse.

• Laws that say how old you have to be to work and those that say how old you have to be to finish school don’t make sense with each other. It also means that expanding great basic education for everyone has to go beyond just doing what the law says.

• Child work comes in many forms; it is not always the same. It looks different based on the type of work children are forced to do, their age and gender, and whether they work alone or with their families. Because it is so complicated, there is no one way to get rid of it.

• The lack of national laws that put global agreements on the minimum age of work and the employment of children in dangerous jobs into action.

• The fact that international commitments and domestic goals don’t match up well.

• There aren’t enough good checks of work in the informal economy. About 71% of working children are in the farm industry, and 69% of them do work for free in their own families.

Government measures undertaken to eradicate Child labour in India

• Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986), which says that children can’t work in certain jobs and that the terms of work in other jobs have to be regulated.

• Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016: This law says that no one under the age of 14 can be hired. It also says that no one between the ages of 14 and 18 can be hired for dangerous jobs or processes, and it regulates their working conditions in places where they are not banned.

• On June 12, 2017, World Day Against Child Labour, India signed two important child labour agreements from the International Labour Organisation.

• National Policy on Child Labour (1987), which focused more on helping children who worked in dangerous jobs and tasks than on stopping them from doing so.

• The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000 and the change to the JJ Act in 2006 include working children who need care and protection, regardless of their age or job.

• Section 23 (cruelty to a child) and Section 26 (abuse of a child worker) of the Children in Need of Care and Protection Act deal with child labour.

• Pencil: The government has set up a platform called pencil.gov.in to make sure that child labour rules are enforced well and to put an end to child labour.

• The Right to Education Act of 2009 says that every child between the ages of 6 and 14 must go to school and get a free education. Article 21A of India’s Constitution says that education is a basic right, so this is a good time to use education to stop child labour in India.

• Changes to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act make it clear that people who keep slave labour will face harsh punishments.

• The amendment says that people who force children to beg, handle, or carry human waste and animal carcasses will go to jail for a long time.

• When the draught National Policy for Domestic Workers goes into effect, household helpers will be paid at least Rs.9,000 per month.

• Each police station in the country has a special room for protecting children, teens, and women.

• Many non-government organisations (NGOs) in India, such as Bachpan Bachao Andolan, CARE India, Child Rights and You, Global March Against Child Labour, RIDE India, Child Line, etc., have been trying to get rid of child labour.

The Next Steps

• There will be a lot less of a problem if child trafficking stops, poverty goes away, schooling is free and required, and basic living standards are met.

• Strict enforcement of labour laws is also important to stop parties or foreign companies from taking advantage of people.

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• Policies and laws should be enforced better, and the government, workers’ and employers’ groups, and other partners at the national, State, and local levels should be able to do more.

Education: • Getting more people to read and write is a powerful way to stop child labour because illiterate people don’t understand what it means to work as a kid.

• Improving access to and quality of education is the best way to stop kids who are old enough to go to school from going to work.

Eliminate Unemployment: • Eliminating or controlling unemployment is another way to stop children from working. Because there aren’t enough jobs, many people can’t pay all of their bills. If there are more jobs, they will be able to teach their kids to read and write so they can become good citizens.

• If we want to keep making success against child labour, we need policies that make households less economically vulnerable. It is important to move faster towards universal social protection, because social protection keeps poor families from having to use child work as a way to make ends meet.

Role of Panchayat: Because almost 80% of child labour in India comes from rural places, the Panchayat can do a lot to stop it. In this situation, the panchayat should: • Raise awareness about the bad effects of child labour; • Urge parents to send their kids to school; • Make it easy for kids to stop working and go to school instead; • Make sure that schools have enough resources for kids.

• Tell business owners about the laws against child labour and the penalties for breaking them. • Set up Balwadis and Aanganwadis in the village so that working mothers don’t leave their younger children in the care of their older siblings. • Encourage Village Education Committees (VECs) to improve the conditions of schools.

Attitude change: • People’s attitudes and ways of thinking need to change so that adults are hired instead of children and all children can go to school and learn, play, and socialise as they should.

• A sector-wide attitude of businesses that don’t use children to work needs to be fostered.

• The economy and the need for workers should be boosted by coordinated policy efforts to give all private sector workers jobs and help with their incomes.

• Using all available technology, states should put a high priority on keeping all children in school.

• Children who wouldn’t be able to go back to school otherwise should get financial help or have their school fees and other school costs lowered.

• School officials need to make sure that each student has a free lunch at home until school starts. Special efforts should be made to find children who have lost their parents because of COVID-19, and they should be given shelter and foster care as soon as possible.

Integrated Approach: • Child labour and other forms of exploitation can be stopped by using integrated approaches that strengthen child protection systems, tackle poverty and inequality, improve access to and quality of education, and rally public support for respecting children’s rights.

Treating Children as Active Stakeholders: • Children can do a lot to avoid and stop child labour, and they can also do a lot to end it.

Goal 8 of the SDGs is all about getting rid of child work. If there was a better link between the talk about SDGs and the talk about getting rid of child labour, it would be possible to use the synergies and complementarities of the many people who work in both areas. Fighting against child work is not just the job of one person; it is everyone’s job.

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Child Marriage

• The term “child marriage” is generally used to describe a social practise in some parts of India in which a young child (usually a girl younger than 15) marries an adult man. A second way that child marriage is done is when the parents of both the girl and the boy set up a marriage for their children. In this custom, the boy and girl don’t meet until they are old enough to get married, which is when the wedding ceremony takes place.

• It is when a girl or boy gets married before they turn 18. It can be a formal marriage or an unofficial union where a child under 18 lives with a partner as if they were married. The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, says that women can’t get married until they are 21 years old.

• Child marriage is a worldwide problem that is caused by inequality between men and women, poverty, social rules, and a lack of safety. It has terrible effects all over the world. High rates of child marriage show that women and girls are treated unfairly and don’t have many chances in society.

• A new study by UNICEF shows that one in three child brides in the world live in India. It also warned India about the rise in child marriages caused by COVID-19’s opponents. To keep the promise to end child marriage by 2030, it is important to combine the COVID-19 responses with other attempts to end child marriage.

• Most of the time, it’s a mix of poverty, a lack of education, the continuation of patriarchal relationships that promote and enable gender inequality, and cultural attitudes that make it easier for the problem to continue.

Facts and figures about the prevalence of Child marriage in India

• The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that at least 1.5 million girls under the age of 18 get married in India every year. This makes India the country with the most child brides, with a third of the world’s total.

• In India, almost half of the women were girls when they got married. This is called child marriage.

• Even though the number of child marriages has gone down from 54% in 1992-1993 to 33% today and in almost all states, the rate of change is still slow, especially for girls between the ages of 15 and 18.

• There are more child marriages in rural areas (48%) than in urban areas (29%).

• There are also differences between different groups, especially between banned communities, castes, and tribes. However, some ethnic groups, like tribal groups, have lower rates of child marriage than the rest of the population.

• Stop going to school, get a low-paying job, and have less say at home. A girl who has gone to school for 10 years is six times less likely to be forced into marriage before she turns 18.

• The National Family Health Survey says that 40% of the 60 million child weddings that happen around the world happen in India.

• According to the International Centre for Research on Women, India has the 14th highest rate of child marriage in the world.

• The NFHS-5 shows that about 25% of women between the ages of 18 and 29 got married before the legal age of 18.

West Bengal has the highest rate (42%), then Bihar and Tripura, which both have a rate of 40%.

Strangely, there hasn’t been much of a drop in child marriage in these States with a lot of them.

Goa, Himachal Pradesh, and Kerala, on the other hand, have between 6% and 7%.

39% of child marriages in India are between Adivasis and Dalits. 17% of child marriages are between people from better-off social groups, and the rest are between people from Other Backward Classes.

Factors leading to child marriage in India

• Lack of education: Education is a big factor in deciding how old someone is when they get married. NFHS-4 says that about 45% of women who didn’t go to school and 40% of women who only went to elementary school got married before they turned 18.

• Seen as a Burden: From an economic point of view, child marriages are a quick way to make money. A girl child is seen as a chance to get a big gift for her family when she gets married.

• Poverty: When it comes to money, women from poor homes tend to get married younger. More than 30% of women in the two poorest wealth quintiles were married by age 18, but only 8% of women in the wealthiest quintile did the same.

• Social background: Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are more likely to have child marriages than other groups.

• Trafficking: Poor families are drawn to sell their daughters into prostitution or marriage because it brings in a lot of money for the family but hurts the girl. They don’t care about their girls, and the money they get from selling them is used to help their boys.

• Girls are often seen as a burden who can’t help with money. The work that women do is limited to the home and is not recognised. There is also the matter of the dowry. Even though the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 made dowry illegal, it is still usual for the parents of Indian girls to give gifts to the groom and/or his family, either in cash or in kind. The amount of the dowry goes up with the girl’s age and school level. Because of this, the “incentive” of payment keeps child marriage going.Families and girls who could benefit from social safety programmes don’t always know about them, and these programmes are often limited to giving cash transfers without any messages to help deal with the many different ways child marriage happens.

Interlinkages of poverty and child marriages in India

• Since most country families have many children, poverty is the main reason why people get married young.

• Most parents in these kinds of homes can’t or won’t take care of their children.

• People think that getting married young is a way to ease this load.

• Some parents, who can’t afford to feed their kids or send them to school, keep young girls from getting married to older guys.

• As a way to pay off bills, some parents set up marriages between their children and the people who owe them money.

• If there are no schools, there is no way for a girl who is being pushed to get married to talk to a teacher or counsellor.

• Even though the government has set up kid helplines, most of them can’t use them.

• The number of child marriages in the country rose by 88 percent from August 2019 to August 2020, according to a response from the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development to an RTI request from a Rajya Sabha MP.

• During the pandemic, a lot of people in India lost their jobs and their funds. Because of this, parents have had to marry off their girls at a young age to save money.

• During the COVID-19 pandemic, early marriage is caused by more than just poverty. Weak law enforcement, patriarchal rules, and worries about family honour all play a role.

• West Bengal is one of five states in India where young marriages are common. Nationally, 12% of girls between 15 and 19 get married, but in West Bengal, that number is 25.6%.

• Between November 2019 and March 2020, 46 child marriages happened in Madhya Pradesh. In the three months after the lockdown, from April to June 2020, 117 child marriages happened.

• ChildLine India says that all of India In the first four months of lockdown, from March to June, there were 5214 reports of children getting married.

• UNICEF has said that the pandemic has made it harder for poor parents to keep their girls from getting married young in Madhya Pradesh, a state in India.

• From March 24 to May 31, 2020, there were lockdowns in 25 of Telangana’s 33 districts. During that time, 204 child marriages took place.

How child marriage affects the Indian economy

• Child marriage hurts the Indian economy and can cause a circle of poverty that lasts for many generations.

• Girls and boys who get married when they are young are more likely to lack the skills, knowledge, and job opportunities they need to get their families out of poverty and help their country grow socially and economically.

• When girls get married young, they have children sooner and have more children over the course of their lives. This puts more financial strain on the family.

• It is thought that child marriage costs countries at least 1.7% of their GDP.

• It makes women have 17 percent more babies, which hurts poor countries that already have a lot of people.

• According to a report by the IRCW, ending child marriage would be good for the world’s welfare by $22.1 billion in the first year (2015). By 2030, this number will be $566 billion per year, for a total gain of more than $4 trillion. Since one in three of these kinds of marriages happen in India, this has a huge effect on India.

• If the number of people in a household went down, there would be more money to pay for food, schooling, health care, and other costs for the other people in the household.

Government measures, Laws and Policies to curb Child Marriages in India

The Child Marriage Restraint Act was passed in 1929.

The goal is to get rid of the special evil that could endanger the life and health of a young girl who couldn’t handle the stress and strains of marriage, and to keep these young mothers from dying too soon.

It refers to all of India except for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It also applies to all Indian citizens, both inside and outside of India.

• The Child Marriage Ban Act of 2006

The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, which was made by the British, was replaced by this law.

It says that a child is a man younger than 21 and a woman younger than 18.

The adulthood Act says that a “minor” is a person who has not reached the age of adulthood.

It plans to stop children from getting married by putting them in jail for two years or making them pay a fine of Rs. 1 lakh.

 The Act also says that a Child Marriage Prohibition Officer can be hired whose job is to stop child marriages and raise knowledge about them.

• Hindu Marriage Act, 1956: The Hindu Marriage Act doesn’t say how to punish the parents or other people who helped make the marriage official.

A girl can only get her marriage thrown out if she wants to get married before she turns 15 and fights the marriage before she turns 18.

• Muslim Personal Law: Child marriage is not against the law in Islam. After getting married, the pair has a “option of puberty” called Khayar-ul-bulugh. When they reach puberty, they can break off the marriage.

• The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012, which aims to keep children from having their human rights or other rights violated.

• A standing committee in parliament is weighing the pros and cons of raising the age of marriage for women to 21. The Union Cabinet has already given its approval to this idea.

• State governments are asked to take special steps to delay marriages by working together on Akha Teej, which is the traditional day for these kinds of weddings; • People are also being educated about the issue of child marriage through ads in the press and on TV and radio.

• Events like International Women’s Day and National Girl Child Day are used to bring problems like child marriage to the forefront and raise awareness about them.

• The Women and Child Ministry’s Sabla project teaches 11–18-year-old girls about their legal rights, including the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.

Measures needed to prevent Child Marriages

Education

• It is one of the best ways to keep kids from getting married too young.

• When girls are able to stay in school, their views on the possibilities they have in the community can change.

Gathering people who work to protect children:

• One way to stop child marriages during the pandemic would be to make sure that there are a lot of child protection workers among the people who are needed to keep people healthy.

• India has a strong system of community workers who have done great work making sure that people have access to health care and other social services in these hard times.

• If these workers were part of the system, they could keep an eye on girls who might get married young and take steps to stop this from happening.

• This could be done through counselling and helping the family in question get some benefits.

Gender sensitization programmes: • There should be gender training programmes for cops and NGOs all over the district. The Indian government, along with groups like UNICEF and NGOs, should work to put the unified national strategy into action. This strategy includes:

Law enforcement:

• Laws and support systems, like a call for children who are getting married, should be followed to the letter and spirit. For example: Odisha Child Marriage Resistance Forum.

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Girls’ empowerment:

• Every girl child should have the chance to learn life skills, safety skills, get a better education, and get a job.

• Girls should be encouraged to go to elementary and higher school.

Working with important leaders, oaths and pledges, counselling, and folk and traditional media are all ways to get people involved in a cause.

• Partnerships between the government and civil society groups, neighbourhoods, and the media are very important for bringing attention to child marriage.

Promoting convergence: • Programmes and sectors at all levels should work together, especially programmes and schemes for education and social safety.

• The Indian government has already passed laws like the Child Marriage Prohibition Act of 2006 and started programmes like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana to encourage people to treat their daughters the same way they treat their boys.

• Conditional Cash Transfer programmes focus more on the person than on the family, which is where the government’s attention is usually focused.

• Some government programmes deal directly or indirectly with the problem of child marriage. These programmes deal with things like maternity benefits and making sure girls can live and go to school. E.g.: Dhanalakshmi, Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowering Teenage Girls (SABLA)

• CCTs are good because they protect marriages in court and make sure that girls get an education.

The Indian government has the most duty for making sure that every child has a good childhood. No matter how rich or poor a family is, every child has the right to a good education, good health care, and the freedom and room to enjoy childhood.

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Malnutrition

• All types of malnutrition, including undernutrition (wasting, stunting, and being underweight), not getting enough vitamins or minerals, being overweight or obese, and getting diseases that aren’t spread by a person’s food as a result.

• The word “malnutrition” refers to three large groups of diseases:

Undernutrition, which includes things like wasting (low weight for height), stunting (low height for age), and underweight (low weight for age)

o Together, the undersized and wasted children are thought to be underweight, which means they aren’t getting enough food or care after giving birth.

Micronutrient-related malnutrition, which includes micronutrient deficits (not getting enough important vitamins and minerals) or micronutrient excess; and Overweight, obesity, and diet-related noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.

• It has been a problem for a long time and a task for the government of India.

• In India, malnutrition is the cause of 68% of all deaths among children under the age of five and 17% of all disability-adjusted life years. About 30% of the world’s stunted children and almost 50% of the seriously wasted children under the age of five live in India. Also, almost half of the world’s “wasted or acutely malnourished” (low weight for height) children live in India.

Malnutrition is caused by many different things.

Scientists say that the first 1,000 days of a person’s life, from the time he or she is conceived until he or she turns two, are important for physical and mental development. However, according to the NFHS 2006, more than half of women of childbearing age are anaemic and 33% are undernourished. If a mother isn’t getting enough to eat, her babies are more likely to be too.

• For example, girls are more likely to be malnourished than boys, and low-caste children are more likely to be malnourished than upper-caste children.

toilets: • Most children still don’t have access to toilets in rural areas and urban slums. This makes them more likely to get chronic intestinal diseases that stop their bodies from getting the most out of the nutrients in food. As a result, they become malnourished. • Even though there is more food available in India, high levels of malnutrition still exist there.

Lack of a variety of foods: • As the variety of foods eaten grows, the number of people who are malnourished (underweight or short) goes down. In places where people eat a wide variety of foods, only 12% of children are likely to be stunted and underweight, while about 50% of children are stunted if they eat less than three foods.

The poor health of Indian women and children is mostly caused by not having enough food to eat. Nearly one-third of people in the country have a body mass index (BMI) that is below normal because they do not have enough food to eat.

• India already has two strong national schemes to fight malnutrition, the Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) and the National Health Mission, but they aren’t reaching enough people yet.

• The method for getting things done is also not good enough and is full of waste and corruption. Some experts say that 40% of the food that is paid for by the government never gets to the people who are supposed to get it.

Disease spreads: • Most child deaths in India are caused by diseases that can be treated, such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, and problems at birth. • The child may die of a disease in the end, but that disease may be fatal because the child is malnourished and can’t fight it off.

Poverty: The ICDS staff thinks that malnutrition is partly caused by parents who don’t pay attention to their children’s needs. However, crushing poverty causes most women to leave their young children at home and work in the fields during the agricultural seasons.

The number of people who are undernourished is much higher in rural areas than in urban areas because food availability and eating habits vary by region. This calls for a region-specific action plan with big investments in human resources and important health investments at the local level.

Lack of nutrition: • A big reason why some people are hungry is that they don’t choose healthy foods on purpose.

An international study found that poor people in developing countries had enough money to spend up to 30% more on food, but instead spent it on booze, cigarettes, and festivals.

Covid-19 impact on malnutrition in children in India

• It is still very worrying that hunger is getting worse, and the appearance of COVID-19 has only made the problem worse.

• The partial closure of Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) and the lockdowns that followed have caused problems in the supply chains. This has stopped the mid-day meals programme, made it harder for children to get take-home rations (a way to get extra calories) and made it harder for them to get to health care services.

• According to a study released in the journal Global Health Science 2020, the problems caused by COVID-19 are likely to cause four million more children to be severely malnourished.

• This is also clear from India’s terrible score on the Global Hunger Index 2022, which puts it at 107 out of 121 countries.

An attempt by the government to fight malnutrition

• Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY): pregnant women get $6,000 straight deposited into their bank accounts so they can get better care when they give birth.

• POSHAN Abhiyaan: aims to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anaemia, and babies with low birth weight by making different schemes work better together, improving monitoring, and getting the community more involved.

• The National Food Security Act (NFSA) of 2013 makes access to food a legal right. Its programmes and schemes are meant to make sure that the most vulnerable people have enough food and nutrients.

• The Mid-Day Meal (MDM) plan is meant to improve schoolchildren’s nutrition, which has a direct and positive effect on enrollment, retention, and attendance.

• Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), which has a network of 1.4 million Anganwadi Centres and helps almost 100 million people, including pregnant and nursing women and children up to age 6;

• Public Distribution System (PDS), which is part of the National Food Security Act and helps more than 800 million people get food.

• NITI Aayog has also worked on a National Nutrition Strategy (NNS), found the 100 districts with the most stunted children and put measures there first.

• The National Nutrition Strategy (NNS) has set very high goals for 2022, and the Poshan Abhiyaan has set goals for the next three years to reduce stunting, undernutrition, and low birth weight by 2% each year, and to reduce anaemia by 3% each year.

• IYCF (Infant and Young Child Feeding), Food and Nutrition, Immunisation, Institutional Delivery, WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene), De-worming, ORS-Zinc, Food Fortification, Dietary Diversification, Adolescent Nutrition, Maternal Health and Nutrition, ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education), Convergence, ICT-RTM (Information and Communication Technology Real Time Monitoring), Capacity Building.

How to fix the problem of malnutrition

In 2015-16, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 found that 21% of children under 5 in India had Moderate Acute Malnourishment (MAM) and 7.5% had Severe Acute Malnourishment (SAM).

• Lessen the growing problem of acute malnutrition and make sure that SAM children are found and treated quickly so they don’t fall deeper into the circle of malnutrition.

• Put these kids in centres that help them eat better.

• The second step is to treat children with SAM without any problems at the community level through the Village Child Development Centre (VCDC) by giving them different healing foods made both centrally and locally.

• These high-energy foods are often the main source of nutrition for children because they contain important macro- and micronutrients. It makes sure that the people who need to gain weight do so in just six to eight weeks.

• These children need to be checked on to make sure they don’t get malnourished again and that the target group has enough food.

• The people who work for ASHA need to be paid enough so that they can do their jobs more carefully.

Nutrition is not a side issue; it is essential to our lives. What we need most is a pro-equity plan that integrates nutrition into food systems and health systems and is backed up by strong funding and accountability. To meet the global nutrition goals for 2025, there are only five years left. Since time is running out, the focus should be on an action that has the biggest effect.

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Gender bias against girl child

The change in India’s population has led to an ugly side effect: people have always preferred sons to daughters, and this desire has grown as fertility has gone down. This has made the ratio of boys to girls at birth worse.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) just released the State of the World Population 2020 report, which is called “Against my will: resisting practises that hurt women and girls and hurt equality.” It talks about at least 19 ways in which women’s rights are violated, focusing on the three most common: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), extreme bias against daughters in favour of boys, and child marriage.

Key findings of the report in India

• One out of every three girls who are lost in the world because of sex selection, both before and after birth, are from India. That’s 46 million girls out of a total of 142 million.

• India has the highest rate of postnatal sex selection, with 13.5 extra female deaths for every 1,000 female births. This means that 1 in 9 females under the age of 5 die in India because of postnatal sex selection.

• In India, between 2013 and 2017, about 460,000 girls went missing at birth, which means they were not born because of sex-selection biases.

• About 90% of the 1.2 million girls who die each year because of female foeticide are killed in India (40%) and China (50%).

• One out of every nine girls under the age of 5 dies because of sex selection after birth.

• It tends to be higher in families with more money, but as sex selection technology gets easier to use and cheaper, it spreads to families with less money over time.

• Because of the skewed ratio, there are more potential men than potential brides. This leads to human trafficking for marriage and child marriages.

• On the other hand, the study says that progress in India has helped reduce the number of child marriages in South Asia. This backs up the NFHS data that said the number of child marriages in India dropped from 47% in 2005-2006 to 26.8% in 2015-2016.

Measures needed

• In 1994, the government passed the Prenatal Diagnostics Techniques Act to stop the problem of sex-selection and female feticide.

• In 2003, the PDT act was changed into the Prenatal Conception and Prenatal Determination Act (PCPNDT), which controls sex selection before or after conception.

Needs to be done

• There are many problems with how the PCPNDT Act is being carried out. For example, funds aren’t being used to their full potential, registrations aren’t being renewed, which leads to automatic renewals, patients’ details and diagnostic records aren’t being kept, and neither are the government’s records. Ultrasonography (USG) centres aren’t being inspected regularly, inspection reports aren’t being written down, and USG equipment isn’t being mapped or regulated. They need to be fixed as soon as possible.

• Countries that have signed international agreements like the Convention on the Rights of the Child have a responsibility to stop the harm done to girls, whether it comes from family members, religious groups, health care workers, businesses, or the State itself.

• Governments have to get rid of these practises and traditions because they are required to by human rights treaties.

• Low sex ratio is also caused in part by dowry. The practise of taking and giving dowry, which mostly happens in educated and upper-class houses, can be stopped by making laws and making people aware of it.

• Children should be taught to have good values and not do things like pay a dowry, kill a pregnant woman, or treat men and women differently. The impressionable minds of the children should be changed in such a way that when they grow up, they will think that marriage and killing female foeticides are wrong.

• Women should also be taught from a young age that they are just as good as men. This would be good for the next generation, since the girl child of today would be the mother and mother-in-law of tomorrow.

• Gender inequality based on sociocultural problems is the biggest thing that stands in the way of a balanced gender structure. We need to do something about the way women are treated unfairly in our society.

• The government needs to take the lead in setting up a mission to balance the number of men and women in the population by the next census. This will help bring together support from different groups and direct their efforts in a focused way.

The next step

• There needs to be a big change in the way things are done, from protecting girls to promoting women as a group.

• This is done not only by making the girl child look better, but also by making her more valuable.

• What’s needed now is a rights-based approach to the whole life cycle, with a focus on eating, health, education, equal rights to property rights, jobs, and making money.

• Finally, the only way to stop adding to the shameful list of “Missing Millions” is to have an all-encompassing gender sensitization programme that focuses on the individual level through education, the institutional level, both public and private, and the societal level through professional behaviour campaigns.

To choose based on gender and kill new life if the gender is not “favourable” could be one of the worst things that has ever happened to people. It’s time for the government to do more to raise people’s understanding. This time, they should use technology to keep an eye on every pregnant woman, all the way down to the taluk level, until at least one year after the baby is born. Even though punishments might have some effect, the only thing that will really make a difference is a change in how people think. Amartya Sen said that even though there are more boys than girls at birth, “after conception, biology seems to favour women on average.” The government needs to use a weapon that is strong enough to get people to stop thinking about son choice as something wrong.

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Child Abuse

Child abuse is described as when a child is hurt, sexually abused, sexually exploited, treated carelessly, or treated badly. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that this kind of abuse can be physical, mental, emotional, psychological, or take the form of neglect or profit. Child abuse comes in many different ways in India. It happens in cities, in the country, in the homes of the rich and the poor, on the streets, and in schools.

Constitutional Provisions to safeguard children

• The Indian Constitution has a number of rules about how to protect and care for children.

• It gave the lawmakers the power to make special rules and laws to protect the rights of children.

• The Indian Constitution’s Articles 14, 15, 15(3), 19(1)(a), 21, 21(A), 23, 24, 39(e), and 39(f) include protections for the safety, security, and well-being of all people, including children.

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Child Abuse in India

• In India, child abuse is often hidden, especially when it happens at home or by family members.

• When it comes to abuse, most of the attention has been on things that are more public, like child work, prostitution, marriage, etc.

• In our country, 80–85% of the time, the person who raped a child is a known person.

• They can be a neighbour, someone from the area, a family member, or even a cousin.

• One of the worst things that can happen to a child is to be sexually abused by someone they know.

• When the person who hurt them is a family member, the victims often don’t tell anyone because they’re afraid of being judged.

• Young people don’t always know when they’re being harmed.

• This information from the National Crime Records Bureau shows that even the best police systems and strictest rules can’t stop sexual abuse of children.

• After a crime has been done, the police can punish the person who did it. But by that time, the damage has already been done.

• A jail sentence for the accused comes after years of fighting in court, and it doesn’t help the victim deal with the stress for the rest of his or her life.

• In many of these cases, the victims are pushed to change their stories in court because the elders have “reasoned things out.”

• Many rapes happen in urban slums because parents leave their children alone or with someone they know.

Impacts of child abuse

• It makes things happen that hurt a child’s health, well-being, and safety.

• It can also cause physical and mental damage that lasts a lifetime.

• This stress also affects families and society as a whole.

• People who were abused as children are more likely to have mental health problems as adults.

Challenges

• Because of social rules, there isn’t much talk about sex, including safety, in the home.

• Offenders have used the idea that being a victim is a bad thing as a way to get away with their crimes.

• Poorer kids are more at risk than rich kids.

• In India, the pressure on children to do well in school and college exams is becoming a growing worry. This can be seen as a form of emotional abuse and stress.

• Manufacturers exploit children as cheap labour.

• There are a lot of undernourished, short, and thin children.

Initiatives taken by the government

POCSO Act

• The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012 has strict laws to protect children from sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.

POCSO e-Box

• An online complaint management system makes it easy to report sexual crimes against children and makes sure that criminals are punished quickly.

NCPCR

• The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) makes sure that all laws, policies, and programmes are in line with what the Indian Constitution and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child say about children’s rights.

Plan to protect children as a whole

• The goal of the Government-Civil Society Partnership is to create a safe place for children in hard situations.

Operation Smile aims to make people happy.

• Operation Smile, also called Operation MUSKAAN, is an effort by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to find and care for children who have gone missing.

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Child Pornography

The POCSO Act of 2019 says that “Child Pornography” is any visual representation of sexually explicit behaviour involving a child. This includes a picture, video, digital image, or computer-made image that looks just like a real child. A study from the India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) shows that there has been a sharp rise in the number of people looking for online child pornography during the lockdown.

At the moment, there is no rule that says you can’t watch porn in your own home. After getting an order from the Supreme Court, the Department of Telecommunications shut down several websites that had pornographic content for children. According to the Information Technology (IT) Act of 2002, it is illegal to show pornographic information to children.

The Chairman of the House recently set up an Ad-hoc Committee of the Rajya Sabha to look into the problem of child pornography and the horrible effects it has on a lot of people and report on it. The Committee has also suggested important changes to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012 and the Information Technology Act of 2000, as well as making changes at the technological, institutional, social, educational, and state levels.

Impact of Pornography on Children and Society

• Effect on children’s minds: Porn has an effect on children’s minds. It is connected to sadness, anger, and worry. It can make you feel bad inside. It also affects how children live their lives, their biological clocks, their jobs, and their relationships with other people.

• Effects on sexual behaviour: When seen often, it makes you feel sexually satisfied and obsessed, which makes you more likely to do the same things in real life.

• Sexual addiction: Some experts say that watching porn is like having an addiction. It has the same effect on the brain as taking drugs or drinking a lot of booze every day.

• Effects on behaviour: Teens who watch pornography are more likely to believe in gender norms, especially boys. Teenage boys who watch a lot of pornography are more likely to think of women as sex objects.

Porn can make people more likely to agree with sexual violence and violence against women.

Other Impacts

• Pornography can change a young person’s ideas about what sex is like. There is some proof that watching porn can make a person more likely to have their first sexual experience earlier.

• Pornography is also linked to sexually unhealthy behaviours like not using condoms and having dangerous anal and vaginal sex.

• Both men and women who watched porn had higher levels of self-objectification and body surveillance. • The content of porn may support the idea that men should be sexually active and women should be passive receptacles.

Problems with getting rid of child pornography

• Porn has a different effect on children from the lower class than it does on children from the upper class. A single solution won’t be enough to solve the problem.

• There aren’t enough classes and talks about sex in schools.

• In India, people think that sex is bad and should be hidden. There is no good talk about sex in the family. It makes the child learn this from other people, which leads to a pornographic addiction.

• It’s hard for agencies to find child pornography and keep an eye on it.

• The fact that lewd content is available on regular websites and over-the-top (OTT) services makes it hard to tell the difference between content that is not vulgar and content that is vulgar.

Efforts Made:

• Organisations from all over the world share information to stop child pornography. New methods and tools are being used.

• The cops and regular people should work together to find the places where child pornography is most common.

• The Uttarakhand High Court told the Centre to closely enforce the ban on pornographic websites after reports that a girl was gang-raped in a Dehradun school by her classmates after they watched porn clips.

The next step

• Talking with their children can make a big change for the better. Like sexuality education in general, talking about pornography is not one big talk, but rather a number of talks that can come up from the content of songs, music videos, video games, movies, and unintentional or intentional exposure to sexually explicit images.

• Parents can help their kids watch media with a critical eye, so they can spot the lies and tell them apart from the joy of loving, fair, and respectful interactions.

• The National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal will be set up as the national reporting site for electronic materials under the POCSO Act.

• The Union Government will be able to block and/or shut down all websites and intermediaries that have information about child sexual abuse.

• Law enforcement organisations should be able to break end-to-end encryption in order to find people who share child pornographic content. All devices sold in India will have to come with apps that help parents keep track of their kids’ access to pornographic material. Such apps or other alternatives should be made and given away for free to ISPs, businesses, schools, and parents.

• The Ministry of Electronics and IT and the Ministry of Home Affairs will work with Blockchain research companies to find out who users are who buy child pornography online using cryptocurrency. It is against the law for credit cards and online payment tools to take money for pornographic websites.

• All social media sites should be required to have at least the most basic tools to find Child Sexual Abuse Material and to report it regularly to law enforcement in the country.

• Streaming sites like Netflix and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc. should have a separate area for adults where children under the age of 13 could not go.

• The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) must keep track of all kinds of child pornography and report on it every year.

• There should be a national hotline number where people can call to report sexual abuse of children or the spread of child pornographic material.

• The Ministries of Women and Child Development and Information and Broadcasting will run campaigns to teach parents how to spot the early signs of child abuse and online risks, as well as how to keep their child safer online. • Schools will hold training sessions for parents at least twice a year to teach them about the dangers of giving children free access to smartphones and the internet at a young age. Using what other countries have done, we need to come up with a good, workable plan to stop kids under the age of 18 from using computers.

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Child Mortality

India’s under-5 mortality rate is now the same as the world average (39 deaths per 1,000 live births), but the number of baby and neonatal deaths, as well as the performance of India’s poorer neighbours, show that improving the health of newborns is still a difficult task.

The United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation made a study called Levels and Trends in Child Mortality. —In 2021, five million children died before they turned five around the world. Over half of these deaths happened to children between 1 and 59 months old, and the rest happened in the first month of life.

• India’s share: 7,09,366 deaths of children under the age of five, 5,86,787 deaths of babies before their first birthday, and 4,41,801 deaths of newborns.

• For every 1,000 live births, there were six times as many babies who died in Madhya Pradesh as in Kerala.

• There are more deaths in rural areas than in cities.

Reasons – Child Mortality

• Food instability in the home and illiteracy, especially among women. Children from the poorest families are almost twice as likely to die before they turn five as children from the richest families. This is also true for children whose moms did not go to high school or college.

• The big differences in death rates between men and women are likely caused by the fact that girls have less access to good health services for prevention and care.

• Hard to get to health care. UNICEF says that in 2017, 2.9 million children in India under the age of one had not received the first dose of a vaccine.

• There isn’t enough clean water to drink. Large differences between the states of India in health measures like infant mortality show that access to health care and sanitation levels are not the same for everyone.

• Girls getting married young. High rates of anaemia (which affects half of all pregnant women in the country), low levels of nutrition (23% of moms are underweight), and overcrowded public and private health facilities all make it hard to have healthy babies.

• Babies born to teens weigh less than average when they are born.

• Bad ways of breastfeeding

• Bad practises for giving complementary foods

• Repeated illness and not knowing what babies and young children need to eat make the situation even worse.

• Children being born “too early” (preterm births), which means they are born living before 37 weeks of pregnancy are up. They have a two- to four-times greater chance of dying after birth than babies born after 37 weeks of pregnancy. One out of every 10 births around the world is early. In India, one out of every six or seven births is early. Three out of every four deaths caused by problems from preterm birth can be stopped.

• Stillbirths are an important problem that is often forgotten. A stillborn baby is one that dies after 22 weeks of pregnancy but before or during delivery. In India, there were an expected 2,86,482 stillbirths in 2021, which was more than the number of children who died between 1 and 59 months of age, which was 2,67,565.

• A lot of other things, like the environment, geography, agriculture, and culture, as well as a number of other things, contribute to hunger.

• In India, the national immunisation plan gives the first dose of the measles vaccine between the ages of 9 and 12 months, and the second dose between 16 and 24 months. But it looks like millions of children in India do not get the measles vaccine when they are supposed to.

Initiatives by the government

As part of the National Health Mission, the government is taking the following steps to fight child mortality and get more people to get vaccinated:

• Getting pregnant women to give birth in hospitals by giving them cash incentives under the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) and Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) schemes, which give all pregnant women who give birth in public hospitals free prenatal checkups, delivery, including Caesarean section, postnatal care, and care for sick babies up to one year of age.

• Strengthening of delivery points to provide comprehensive and high-quality Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A) Services, ensuring essential newborn care at all delivery points, and setting up Special Newborn Care Units (SNCU), Newborn Stabilisation Units (NBSU), and Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) units to care for sick and small babies. ASHAs offer Home-Based Newborn Care (HBNC) to improve the way children are raised.

• In 2014, the India Newborn Action Plan (INAP) was created to work together to reach the goals of “Single Digit Neonatal Mortality Rate” and “Single Digit Stillbirth Rate” by 2030.

• The Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Ministry of Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) work together to encourage babies to start eating right away and to only eat breast milk for the first six months.

• Village Health and Nutrition Days (VHNDs) are held to provide health services for mothers and children, raise knowledge about how to care for mothers and children, and teach people about health and nutrition.

• MAA-Mothers’ Absolute Affection programme in August 2016 to improve breastfeeding practises (Initial Breastfeeding within one hour, Exclusive Breastfeeding up to six months, and Complementary Breastfeeding up to two years) through mass media and building the skills of health care providers in health facilities and in the community.

• The Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) is getting help to vaccinate children against diseases like Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis B, and Measles, which can kill people. All over the country, a pentavalent vaccine has been made available, and “Mission Indradhanush” has been started to fully immunise children who have not been vaccinated or who have only been partially vaccinated. In some states, a Measles Rubella Campaign is being held for children from 9 months to 15 years old, with the goal of getting rid of measles by 2020.

• The Mother and Child Tracking System keeps track of mothers and children by name until they are two years old. This is done to make sure that all prenatal, intranatal, and postnatal care and immunisations are given on time.

The next step

• To reach the ambitious goals for child survival, all women, children, and teens must have access to care that is safe, effective, high-quality, and reasonable.

• Steps should be taken to make sure that pregnancies are registered as soon as possible, to catch high-risk cases early, to improve births in hospitals, and to help health workers learn new skills.

• An education campaign should be started to teach the mother about the benefits of prenatal care, giving birth in a hospital, the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, immunisation, and treating diarrhoea at home. All of these things are meant to help family members know how to help women during pregnancies and deliveries.

• The number of child deaths in India keeps going down in an amazing way. Investing in holistic nutrition as part of the POSHAN campaign and making a national promise to make India free of open defecation by 2019 are both moves that will help speed up progress even more.

• Mortality rates among children and young teens are important not only for the health of children and young teens, but also for long-term social and economic growth.

• SDG goal 3 calls for an end to preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years old. It says that all countries should try to reduce neonatal mortality to at least 12 deaths per 1,000 live births and under-five mortality to at least 25 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030. This will depend on improving health care and making sure more babies are born in hospitals where trained staff can help.