Opening Statement by Mr. Shankar Aggarwal, Secretary (WCD)& the Leader of Delegation at the Review of India's Third and Fourth Combined Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2-3 June 2014 Opening Statement by Mr. Shankar Aggarwal, Secretary (WCD)& the Leader of Delegation at the Review o..

Opening Statement by Mr. Shankar Aggarwal, Secretary (WCD)& the Leader of Delegation at the Review of India's Third and Fourth Combined Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2-3 June 2014

Sixty-six Session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Review of India’s Third and Fourth Combined Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child
[2-3 June 2014; Geneva]

Opening Statement by Mr. Shankar Aggarwal, Secretary (WCD)& the Leader of Delegation


Madam Chairperson, Ms. Kirsten Sandberg,

And Distinguished members of the Committee

1. It is indeed a privilege for me, as the Leader of the Indian delegation and also for other members of the delegation, to participate in the proceedings of the sixty-sixth session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is considering India’s Third and Fourth Combined Periodic Report on the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, and also the Initial Reports on the Optional Protocol on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and the second protocol on Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.


2. As the esteemed Members of the Committee would be aware that India has just concluded the largest democratic Parliamentary elections with 551 million voters casting their votes, and the new Government has just assumed Office. My delegation had requested for a deferral of consideration of India’s report as the new Government has just assumed Office; we understand the challenges of deferring consideration of reports by the Committee. On arrival, I learnt about my compulsory presence tomorrow in New Delhi at policy meetings convened by the Prime Minister. I seek the understanding of the Chairperson and other Members of the Committee for my absence tomorrow.


3. The Combined third and fourth Report on the Convention as well as the two Initial Reports on Optional Protocols were prepared after elaborate consultations with all stakeholders, including several ministries and departments of the Government of India, State Governments as well as members of the civil society.


Madam Chairperson,

4. Before, I present the progress made by India in advancement of child rights since our last submission, it may be mentioned that India, a country of 1.22 billion has huge plurality that is multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi- religious. I would also like to mention that India is home to 472 million children i.e. 20% of the world’s child population.  While diversity is strength, at the same time diverse socio-economic, cultural backgrounds, different geographies, continue to pose challenges to the policy-makers. Moreover it is not only the largest democracy but has a federal structure where provincial Governments have huge autonomy. Keeping in view this heterogeneity, the Government has been pursuing its agenda of inclusive growth for the development, keeping in mind the best interests of the child with strong support and partnership with state governments and voluntary sector. India lays down child rights as a lead indicator of national development at all levels of governance.


5. Over the last few years, significant steps have been taken by the Government to improve transparency and efficiency in governance leading to a rights-based approach impacting our policies and programmes. Some of these legislations are the Right to Information Act, Right to Public Services Act and Citizens Charter. New policies, laws and targeted programmes for advancement are under different phases of implementation.


6. Now, please allow me to describe some of the key initiatives taken by the Government of India to improve the overall well-being of our children since we last reported to the Committee.


Madam Chairperson,

7. A major landmark initiative taken by the Government was the establishment of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in 2007 through a legislation. Its mandate is to ensure that each and every child in the country has access to all entitlements and rights. Similar Commissions have been set up in all States and Union Territories, with the exception of two Union Territories.


8. I am also happy to inform the Committee that the Government has adopted a new National Policy for Children in April, 2013, with a rights-based approach as compared to the previous National Policy of 1974 which was welfare oriented. The new Policy marks a paradigm shift, the way we view our children. It views children as individuals with rights and responsibilities appropriate to their age and level of maturity. The Policy has also adopted the definition of child in tune with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.


9. The Government also enacted landmark legislation - the National Food Security Act, 2013. This is a historic initiative to ensure food and nutritional security to identified eligible households, with specific provisions for children. It gives right to receive adequate quantity of food grains at subsidized prices to about two thirds of our 1.2 billion population, covering upto 75% of rural population and upto 50% of urban population. It provides for age appropriate meal, free of charge, to meet the nutritional needs of children. For effective implementation of the Act, there is also a provision for redressal mechanisms at state, as well as at district levels.


10. The Government has recently strengthened and restructured Integrated Child Development Scheme in 2012 with an overall budget allocation of Rs.1235 billion for the 12th Five Year Plan. The revised scheme provides for special focus on children under three years of age, and pregnant and lactating mothers, strengthening of services including care and nutrition, counseling.  It also has enhanced focus for care of underweight children. A new provision for an additional Anganwadi worker cum nutritional counselor has been introduced for focus on children under 3 years of age in selected 200 districts.


11. The Government has also launched a new multi-sectoral programme - Maternal and Child Undernutrition as a special intervention in 200 selected districts in a phased manner with a total outlay of Rs. 121.32 billion. The first phase is being implemented in 100 districts, while in the second phase, it will be scaled up to cover 200 districts during 2014-15.


Madam Chairperson,

12. A nation-wide media campaign against malnutrition has been launched in 2012 by the President of India. The Government involves popular personalities as Brand Ambassadors to create greater visibility and awareness about the importance of optimal nutrition, promotion of home level care, behavior orientation for infant and young child feeding practices.


13. India has recently launched an innovative Mother & Child Tracking System, to leverage Information Technology for ensuring delivery of full spectrum of healthcare services to pregnant women and immunization services to children up to 5 years of age. It is a web-based application to facilitate and monitor service delivery as well as to establish a two way communication between the service provider and the beneficiary. The system will go a long way in ensuring quality service delivery, micro birth planning, ensuring universal immunization and will have positive impact on important health indicators like IMR and MMR.


14. To address the maternal health, we have launched a special scheme (the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY)) in 2010 on a pilot basis in 53 districts. The scheme contributes to better enabling environment by providing cash incentives for improved health and nutrition to children and pregnant and lactating women. The scheme also partly compensates for wage loss to Pregnant & Lactating women.

Madam Chairperson,

15. The Government has recently launched a new programme to address the health needs of adolescents - Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) to cover mental health, nutrition, substance abuse, gender based violence and non-communicable diseases.  The programme emphasizes six ‘Cs”- coverage, content, communication, counselling, clinics and convergence. Active use of new technologies and social media platforms form an integral part of the programme to reach the adolescents in their own spaces, with strategic partnerships with communities and peers.


16. To address the needs of adolescent girls in the age group of 11-18 years, a new scheme called “Sabla” was launched in 2010-11 on pilot basis in 205 districts. The Scheme aims at all round development of adolescent girls by making them self-reliant by improving their health and nutrition status and facilitating access to learning and public services. More than 10 million adolescent girls are getting benefit under the Scheme every year. Though the impact of the scheme is being evaluated, it may be pointed out the scheme will have long term benefits in the form of reduction in number of girls with anemia and other health parameters. A similar scheme for adolescent boys called ‘Saksham’ is being launched.


17. In order to give special focus to the needs of Persons with Disabilities, the Government of India has created a separate Department of Disability Affairs under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment in May, 2012. Two major schemes namely, Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme and Scheme for Assistance to Disabled Persons to Purchase Aids and Appliances are being funded by the Government. These Schemes provide for rehabilitation services including running special schools for children with disabilities and providing aids and appliances.


Madam Chairperson,

18. I will now turn my attention to child protection scenario in the country. Offences against children have been an area of grave concern for the Government. Government undertakes independent studies regularly to understand child protection dimensions in the country. Some of these studies were conducted by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.


19. In a significant departure from the past, and taking into account the lessons learnt from the independent studies, a special law titled - the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act was enacted in 2012. The Act is gender neutral.  The Act is a major shift from the usual criminal law as it shifts the burden of proof on the accused in case of serious offences. This provision has been made keeping in view the greater vulnerability and innocence of children. It also provides for several child friendly procedures during the pre-trial and trial stage. It also covers sexual assault, sexual harassment and use of child for pornography. The Act also provides for Special Courts for speedy trial to be completed within one year of taking cognizance of the offence.


20. As regards the implementation of the Optional Protocol on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, I would like to inform the committee that the recent Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, defines trafficking and prescribes stringent punishment of life imprisonment in case of offences involving trafficking of children. Under comprehensive scheme of establishing Anti-Human Trafficking Units, 225 such Units have been established. A web Portal on Anti Human Trafficking has been launched in 2014. India also ratified the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime in 2011, and its two Protocols. A Task Force on Human Trafficking has been established with neighboring countries to address trans-border aspects of this problem. 


21. Coming to the Protocol on Involvement of Children in Armed conflict, it may be stated very firmly that India does not face either international or no-international armed conflict situations. There are few incidents of violence perpetrated by disgruntled elements including Left Wing Extremists, which are dealt with appropriately by the state governments. Government has initiated various welfare measures including the Integrated Plan of Action for the development and protection of children affected by such violence.


22. The Government is currently working on a comprehensive review and amendment of the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act, 2000, including addressing heinous offences committed by juveniles in the age group of 16-18 years. It may be highlighted that the Act has already been amended twice to address gaps in its implementation.


23. To address gaps further and ensure effective implementation of the Juvenile JusticeAct, the Government launched the ‘Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) in 2009. ICPS provides for dedicated delivery structures at national, state and district level and thus creates a safety net for children. Most of the States have signed MOUs with the Central Government to implement the scheme in the States.

Madam Chairperson,

24. We are also pleased to inform the Committee that since 2011 when we reported last, statutory bodies for the effective implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act have been set up in almost all the districts across the country.  The Special Juvenile Police Units have been established in 28 State and UT administrations. The Child Welfare Committee for children in need of care and protection have been set up in 619 Districts and Juvenile Justice Boards for children in conflict with law have been set in 608 Districts out of a total of 660 districts in the country. It may also be mentioned that in 225 districts of the country, Integrated Anti Human Trafficking Units have been set up to prevent and combat human trafficking including sale of children.


25. The Government of India has recently revised norms under the ICPS. The revision has been made to prevent attrition and help in recruitment of skilled child protection personnel; ensure sufficient nutrition and adequate facilities for children; promote convergence with other schemes being run by government or NGOs to reduce staff cost and build linkages between existing programmes and help states to provide child protection services in a more cost effective manner. The financial allocation for the twelfth plan has been increased to Rs. 30 billion, a jump of nearly three times compared to 2009 figures. We are confident that with this enhancement the quality of services shall considerably improve. In all these programmes, our endeavor is to make every child safe in India.

26. Now I come to another very important initiative introduced by the Government - The ‘Childline’, India’s first 24/7, free, emergency phone outreach service for children in need of care & protection. It has received a staggering 38.12 million calls in the year ending March 2014. It is a unique Public Private Partnership with full funding given by the Government. Childline works in collaboration with voluntary organisations, which function as call centres to respond to calls 24/7. Childline now works with 552 partners as compared to 190 partners reported in 2011. The emergency outreach service is now operational in 280 locations as compared to 83 locations reported earlier.  We are working to expand the Childline services to all the districts.


27. The Government recognises that there is an acute shortage of data. A nationwide website called TrackChild has been developed for tracking of missing children and their ultimate repatriation and rehabilitation. Track Child has two components. One relates to Web-enabled Child Protection Management Information System (MIS) that maps all services available to children in difficult circumstances and their families. The other is a website for missing children, which facilitates their recovery and rehabilitation.  In case of missing children, the Supreme Court of India has made filing of FIR mandatory.

28. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act came into force on 1st April, 2010. It mandates 8 years of free and compulsory elementary education to all the children in the age group of 6-14 years. The Act has resulted in considerable reduction in gender and social gaps especially at the primary level. Universal access within habitation has been achieved except in a few locations at the primary level. Moreover for upper primary level it is close to 94%.


29. The Government has adopted a National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy in 2013. The Policy commits the Government to provide universal and equitable access to ECCE for all children through a decentralized approach. Under the Policy, the Anganwadi Centre is repositioned as a “vibrant child friendly Early Childhood Development centre” with adequate infrastructure, and resources for ensuring a continuum of ECCE in a life cycle approach.

30. The Government is currently working on the amendments in the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986. The proposed amendments include complete prohibition on employment of children below 14 years of age and linking the age of the prohibition to the age defined under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. The proposed amendment also includes prohibition of working of children in the age group of 14-18 years in hazardous occupations. The amendment proposes stricter punishment to the offenders and proposes to make them cognizable offences.


Madam Chairperson,

31. The Government of India recognises and encourages the voluntary organizations and individuals in their endeavors in the area of child welfare, development and protection by honoring individuals, institutions and children with exceptional abilities in different fields. These honors are conferred by the President of India every year.


32. We also engage with State Governments, civil society, academia, experts and UN agencies in the formulation of our policies and laws. The new National Policy for Children is an outcome of such an approach.  Similarly, the POCSO Act has also been framed in consultation with all stakeholders.


33. The Government of India is fully cognizant of the enormous challenges on policy front as well as implementation of existing policies and programmes. The Periodic Report submitted by us in 2011 has acknowledged these challenges.  We have adopted new path breaking legislations directly protecting children, as well as amendments in the existing legislations to address the gaps.


34. The challenge now is to ensure adequate training and capacity building of personnel working with children at all levels, so that their effective implementation provides the necessary protection to children. Similarly, although considerable awareness on child rights among stakeholders has resulted in increased reporting of cases of violations of child rights, however, keeping in view the size of the country and the wide range of disparities, these efforts need to be further strengthened. Capacity building of stakeholders, including law enforcement officials, police, health officials and judiciary, has been a priority for the Government. These efforts need to be further scaled up to cover all those, who deal directly with children. I take this opportunity to reiterate Government of India’s commitment and resolve to continue working towards realizing the rights of all children.


35. Madam Chairperson, considering the vast experience of the Members of this Committee, we look forward to a fruitful and participatory dialogue. We are hopeful that the recommendations and suggestions of the Committee will help us in realizing the vision we have for our children –“well-nurtured children with full opportunities for growth and development in a safe and protective environment.”


Thank You.


June 2, 2014