Elections 2018-19

MP elections: Half glass empty for children in manifestos

Here’s an analysis on how inclusive BJP and Congress are about matters concerning citizens who are supposed to be mature voters once they turn 18

By Sachin Kumar Jain
Published: Tuesday 20 November 2018
Larger issues of agriculture crisis, unemployment and climate change impact children seriously. Credit: Getty Images

In a background note, the Election Commission of India mentions, “A manifesto is generally defined as a published declaration of intentions, motives or views of an individual, group, political party or government whosoever issues it”. The Oxford Dictionary defines manifesto as ‘a public declaration of the policy and aims of a group such as political party’.

Thus, an election manifesto is a document declaring the ideology, intentions, views, policies and programmes of a political party. In such a backdrop, it becomes important that academia, civil society and media together or in their respective domains analyse manifestos of different political parties. It will establish the credentials of manifestos.

It’s a fact that Indian politics has seen children as a dependent entity on adults and adults have not learned how to come out of their own interests and think for children first.  It has a great impact on democracy as up to the age of 18 years, the citizen is considered as child and the very next day is expected to behave like a “mature voter”.

We all know that larger issues of agriculture crisis, unemployment and climate change, also impact children seriously. However, to seek their direct count in democracy, there is an urgent need to see them as an independent identity. Considering children’s issues as part of women’s issues would only be a narrow approach. It is also a well established understanding that society at large (voters, to be clearer) actually don’t take voting decision based on what is in the best interest of children.

Notably, the Congress has made an effort to cover Child Right Framework of Survival, Development and Protection in its manifesto. However, it is silent on children’s right to participation. On the other hand, BJP is covering only development and survival from a broader angle. The INC has also considered child marriage, child labor, and begging, sexual exploitation of children and crimes with children as serious issues and has made promises for strong policy making-implantation efforts towards these issues recognising that MP tops the list in children’s exploitation, but BJP is silent on it despite being in power for the last 15 years.

Interestingly, right to play is becoming an acceptable right of children, as INC and BJP, both have made commitments towards increasing universal facilities, such as playgrounds. Till today, in a state of 30 million children and adolescents, there are no child-adolescents policy in place. INC, in its assembly election manifesto, has promised to make a “Comprehensive Model Policy” along with strict implementation of child-related laws, such as Juvenile Justice Act, Prohibition of Child Marriage and Child Labor Act, Elimination of Child Beggging and thoughtful action for curbing exploitation of Children.

Analysis of the manifestos of the two rivals presents an interesting picture from the children’s perspective. This way, one finds that sans the children, 42 per cent of the state population and 100% of the future is being looked up. INC, in its manifesto, included 974 points under 50 sectors/departments, and their Promissory Letter comprises total 184 points (19%), which are directly linked with children. Since neo-natal mortality, pre-mature deliveries, infant and child mortality, childhood illnesses and developmental delays are still big challenges, so entire health section is considered to be a part of children’s issues. On the other hand, BJP has given space to 141 points for children out of the total 511 points.

It is also observed that school education is considered as a very important issue by both the political parties. BJP with 22 promises on school education has said that they will connect ICDS centers with the schools for better transition of children from pre-school to primary school. The focus is on infrastructure development, whereas INC (42 points) has clearly said that the overall quality of school education system will be improved, with appointment of teachers, allowing education in tribal languages, improvement in co-curricular activities and skill education, training of teachers, no child will be out of school, increase in scholarships and every village will have at least one educational institution. Both the political parties have not made any commitment for Common School System and 6 per cent of GDP for education.

In the Health Section, INC with 48 points categorically mentioned that every citizen will be given quality health care services from primary health center to medical college level, all district hospitals will be improved, all gram panchayats will have PHC/SHCs; services for institutional deliveries and newborn care will be available within the 10 km periphery, ANC coverage will be taken upward till 80 per cent. BJP has theoretically talked about the healthy life and well-being but focusing mostly on implementation of targeted Ayushman Bharat Yojana. BJP is committed to increase availability of Hospital Beds to 500 in all district hospitals and Trauma Hospitals in all districts and PPP mode. Importantly, both the political parties have not made any commitment for state health policy and are not accepting health as people’s right and state’s responsibility.  

On Malnutrition, BJP has made commitment to implant an inter-sectoral strategy for managing malnutrition, but they should also give answer that it was adopted as a policy in 2010, so why no efforts have been made by them till now.  Both the parties, due to their fundamentalist approach, are silent on making provision of eggs in food and nutrition programs for children. Why BJP is not willing to bring pulses and edible oil in PDS? INC is taking about pulses and oil, The most painful finding is that BJP has made no commitment towards maternity entitlements (MEs) for 25 million Pregnant and Lactating Women. Already, central government has illegally reduced MEs through PMMVY. INC has made promise for 90 days wages or Rs 21, 000 as ME for unorganized sector worker families. 

Certain structural governance issues were expected to be addressed by these political parties, but they failed to do so, such as release of separate budget document as ‘Budget for Children’, participation of children in village and development planning, steps for online safety of children, special efforts for the protection of children from exploitation in tourism etc.. However, political parties could not adopt an Empathetic viewpoint towards children. It is apparent that the political parties still want to be only sympathetic towards the children.

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