Screaming for attention

Planning commission forgets children in its approach paper for the eleventh five-year plan


The approach paper for the eleventh plan released by the Planning Commission has forgotten the children under six.  A dream of development that does not include children is a futile dream.  Childhood is the foundation of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of people.  The first six years of life is a period of dramatic growth and development.  Apart from rapid physical and mental growth, children do the difficult task of learning languages, an assortment of physical skills, values and other things required to lead a full life in this competitive world.  Much of this cannot be achieved without sound nutrition, good health, appropriate education, love and affection. 

Investing in the nutrition, health and education of the child under six is not only a moral duty of the government, but also a sound ‘business choice’ with high returns.  Research across the world has established that it is either impossible or too costly to make a malnourished child a healthy adult.  Minor investments in education of young child goes a long way to ensuring that the child finishes school and makes the best use of it.  In failing to attend to the child the government has both been unjust and unwise.  The approach paper for the eleventh plan grandly captioned as “Towards Faster and More Inclusive Growth” barely makes a lip-service to early childhood.  The most significant mention comes in Box 4 in page 47, “We aim to give the right start to children from 0-6 years with effective implementation of the ICDS programme”.  Unfortunately, focus on early childhood begins and ends in this grand statement.  It is time to shift course and sharply refocus the plan by giving due attention to children under six.

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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