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    Published On : Tue, Nov 14th, 2017

    This children’s day time to ask – how child safe is our country??

    Unsafe Playground in India

    Representational Pic

    Nagpur: Any nation has a bright future if the children of today are safe, healthy and happy. We often forget this basic truth in India.

    Unsafe children’s parks
    Just a few days before Children’s day 2017, a dark cloud loomed over Mumbai with the tragic and totally avoidable death of a 6 years old who had gone with her parents and family to a well known park of the city.

    A joyride turned fatal for the little girl, Janhvi Sharma when she fell from a horse near Kala Ghoda on Sunday evening. Janhvi was with her parents, older sister and a few other relatives when the incident occurred.

    According to the police, Janhvi fell off the horse near Cooperage garden and was rushed to hospital by her parents. The police received a call informing them about the mishap around 7pm from Bombay hospital.

    But the point is animal rides have been strictly prohibited in Mumbai gardens and beaches due to the possibility of just such mishaps, but they were going on unhindered till tragedy struck. What made the whole situation worse is basic precautions like making the girl wear a helmet were also not followed. Who does on blame after such a sad incident happens?

    The local authorities, in this case BMC, for not keeping the park roads maintained properly which made the horse stubmle, lose its balance and fall?

    The park administration for allowing horse rides despite being told to stop it?

    Or the parents themselves who did not realize it could be unsafe for their little one to ride a big animal without safety precautions being followed?

    Are Nagpur parks any better?
    We will first of all have to ask – how many children’s parks are there in Nagpur? Specially ones that are accessible and affordable to all children?

    The situation becomes dismal and disheartening because the few exciting places that were created for kids decades ago like the Deer park and Balodyan of Seminary hills is now over run by ‘couples’. The beautiful Botanical garden is also lost to such elements.

    A well lit and maintained ‘Nani- nani’ park is flanked with a dark children’s park!

    Bajaj Nagar has the distinction of having a park dedicated to senior citizens. It is equipped with equipments, bars etc. for their specific needs.

    Ironically, the children’s park laying cheek by jowl to it has overgrown grass and weeds and just a couple of rusted slides. It does not have sufficient light either so one is always scared of mosquitoes breeding in the vegetation and biting kids. Who wants to take that risk in the days of dengue??

    Till a few weeks ago, juniors accompanying their grandparents were not allowed into the senior’s park either – though they are less strict now after many grandparents pleaded their case.

    Schools fare no better in being child safe and child friendly

    We will not even go into the example of Ryan schools and Pradyumna here, taking that as a terrible exception.

    Take an average private school where middle class/ upper middle class parents send their kids. Take Thakur International School in Kandivali, Mumbai. Everyday, nearly 40 students are removed from their classrooms and let to a different section where they cannot ‘mix’ with the other school kids practicing for the school’s annual day. They listen to the noise of other kids having fun and making a racket but they are strictly kept away; an experience that many tiny tots cannot understand and are traumatized by.

    Why are they secluded like outcasts?

    Because the school management has allegedly segregated them as their parents haven’t paid the extra ‘book fees’!

    Parents of these children say they are not opposed to paying the extra fees, they just want the management to justify what the fees are for! But their action should be no excuse to treat highly impressionable kids so insensitively.

    In another school in Maharashtra’s capital a class teacher hit some kids so hard on their hands with a wooden duster that one kid suffered a tendon injury. Other kids had swollen and bruised hands. Parents are left wondering if it is a mere co incidence that these are all kids whose parents haven’t agreed to arbitrary fee hikes.

    Just such an example has happened in a Nagpur school where the teacher once poked a 6 year old child’s hand with a sharp divider and then hit a duster so hard on his head that he had a contusion. One doesn’t know why she was so harsh with the kid except that his mother works as a maid servant and is illiterate. (Though she works hard to pay the heavy annual fees without fail). She could have easily sent her child to a free Corporation school, but are there any good corporation schools left anymore?

    We have foregone Nehru’s ideals in whose name Children’s Day is celebrated

    Pundit Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister after whose birthday the day is celebrated as ‘Children’s Day’ because of his well documented love for children had formulated some very child friendly education policies for free India.

    He had envisaged that primary education, up to standard 4th, should be free and uniform for all kids and must be the responsibility of the state.

    So we have had many Corporation schools with excellent academic records and great facilities for children run in Nagpur for many decades. Nehru had himself attended the joint annual gathering of these city schools. Taking the cue from him, many celebrities like Asha Parekh and S.D. Burman have attended such gatherings too.

    Teachers who have taught in such schools have won President’s awards for ‘best teachers’.

    Where are such schools and such teachers now??

    There is no point in paying lip service to ‘Children’s Day’ without walking the talk.

    The most dismal fact of all – over million Indian kids die before turning 5

    Let’s pay close attention to what Nobel prize winner Kailash Satyarthi has to ay on this issue. (Satyarthi has devoted his life to rescuing trafficked children of India, little girls and boys who have been kidnapped and traded as sex slaves or exploited as child labour.)

    Says Satyarthi ” First let’s be honest about how and where we have failed. Since independence, we have ignored the future of our children by investing very little in public health and public education.

    We still spend less than 2% GDP on public health and about 3.8% of GDP on education. This has resulted in poor human development indicators.

    India registered 1.34 million under-five deaths in 2013, the highest in the world.

    And yet goaded by the US President, no doubt for commercial reasons, we have a ‘trigger happy’ government willing to spend zillions on Defense, which seems to have become our priority number one!

    If we let our kids die of apathy and indifference, just who do we want to ‘defend?’

    Time we asked ourselves this question!

    —Sunita Mudaliar, Executive Editor


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