After a prolonged exercise to identify their issues that could be resolved by political leaders, the children of Rajasthan have called upon the political parties to include their problems in the manifestoes for the forthcoming Rajasthan Assembly election. The children's demands have assumed significance because they will be taking part in the country's democratic process after a few years by casting their votes.
Children below 18 years of age comprise 41% of the population of Rajasthan. If the teenagers till the age of 19 years are included in this population, the figures touch 49.6%, requiring special steps for their over-all development by the government and the society. Without an effective intervention for improving their situation, children cannot become responsible citizens of tomorrow.
The initiative for inculcating democratic aspirations among children and ensuring their participation in the democratic process, rule of the people and public causes in both the Rajasthan Assembly election of 2018 and Lok Sabha elections of 2019, has been taken by the Rajasthan Baal Adhikar Sanrakshan Sajha Abhiyan in association with the Girls Not Bride - Rajasthan Group, Rajasthan Right to Education Forum, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and Baal Suraksha Network.
Over 200 children and representatives of more than 100 organisations placed a charter of demands before the political parties at a state-level conference, titled “Dasham”, in Jaipur last week. The main organiser of the campaign and the programme, Resource Institute for Human Rights (RIHR), has received support from UNICEF, Save the Children, Action Aid, Plan India, UNFPA and World Vision.
The political leaders heard children who voiced their concern on the issues such as insufficient teachers in schools, non-availability of toilets, drinking water, quality of mid-day meals, doctors in health facilities, immunisation of all children, access to schools, career counselling and vocational training. The leaders realised that the children had the right to participate in the decisions made on them.
Significantly, the children also demanded that all the political parties should establish separate cells for them. Besides, organising Baal Sabhas at the village panchayat level should be made mandatory.
Amira Khatoon from Jodhpur said her village had no school or hospital and the people often died before getting to hospital in case of emergency. Kundan Kunwar from Udaipur said children in the rural families, who did not know anything about career choices, were lagging behind in the competition.
Speaking at the function, RIHR spokesperson Vijay Goyal said the series of workshops had helped identify the issues, expectations and demands of children, on the basis of which a charter of demand along with the declaration had been prepared. The leaders present on the occasion supported him and said their parties would include children's issues in their manifestoes.
From the political parties contesting the Assembly election, Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Rao Rajendra Singh and State Women's Commission Chairperson Suman Sharma (both BJP), Mahesh Sharma, general secretary of Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee, Sanjay Madhav (Communist Party of India - Marxist), Nisha Siddhu (Communist Party of India), T.P. Sharma (Aam Aadmi Party) and Shailendra Awasthi (Samajwadi Party) were present at the function.
Suman Sharma said she was glad to note that an effective platform had been created for children who were raising the issues of their basic rights. The problems pertaining to children were an eye-opener for the politicians, she said, while promising that she will refer the charter of demands to BJP's manifesto committee. Shailendra Awasthi said the children should continue to exert pressure on political parties to get their demands fulfilled.
Nisha Siddhu said the closure of thousands of schools as a result of merger had deprived the children from poor families of their right to education. She said her party, CPI, would continue to raise such issues as it has been in the Opposition for a long time. Sanjay Madhav said the era of privatisation which had begun in 1993 had created problems for the poor and downtrodden and deprived them of their livelihood, while the questions of children's rights related to the welfare state.
A large number of children from different districts, including the deaf and dumb students of schools and colleges, raised the critical issues which were affecting their growth and development. They also challenged the traditions of educational opportunities being denied to the girls and children forced into unwanted marriages at the tender age. The emphasis of the demand for children's voice finding space in the election manifestoes was on the aspect of continuous attention by the government.
The two-day workshops of children were earlier organised by Baal Suraksha Nework at all the seven divisional headquarters in the state. The workshops started in Udaipur on August 31 and continued in Ajmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Bharatpur and Kota, where they ended on September 18.