Last week a real estate tycoon threw a birthday bash. It took place in a palace in the middle of a lake where special duck shaped boats floated on the lake providing a novel dancing floor. The tout India was there: a true reunion of the uber rich and famous. And to crown it all the waka waka girl was flown in a special plane to entertain the guests. It was some show!
As the rich feasted danced and caroused, children died without a murmur . It is estimated that 5013 children die each day in India of malnutrition! India has the dubious distinction of having more than a third of the world’s child mortality. Should we not hang our heads in shame! I do. Yet the haves keep on celebrating. Children die while food grain rots. Children die while some gorge and waste. This is nothing short of unacceptable.
What is infuriating is that many sound programmes have been set up to deal with the situation but you guessed right they have been hijacked on the way and money siphoned to greedy pockets. The best example is the famed ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) aimed at children below 5 and that would have ensured, if it had run as planned, that all Indians below the age of 35 were well nourished and inoculated. The reality is that almost 5o% of our children are suffer from malnutrition.
Last week one of our staff members was asked to visit a slum by local dwellers. The reason: they wanted us to open a primary outreach in their slum cluster. She was taken to the local anganwadi (creche) run under the (ill)famed ICDS programme. The so called creche was housed in a dark, airless, damp hole as I refused to call it room. There were a handful of toddlers sitting on the floor and a so called creche worker busy on the phone. There were no weighing machines, no toys or books, no pencils or crayons, no visible food supplements or at least plates and cups that would prove nutrition was given. The children were meant to sit and do nothing. This was how the ICDS programme was translated into reality. This was in the heart of the capital, a stone’s throw away from a swanky 5 star hotel! This was the place meant to monitor a child’s growth and development and take remedial measures. Frankly the child would be better running the in slum lanes. At least s/he would be in the sunlight and get some vitamin D! No wonder children die if programmes meant to protect them run like this.
5000 children die everyday and we remain silent. A statistic like this one should, if we had a conscience, make us take to the streets just as we did when one man gave his stop corruption call. It is true that in a convoluted way corruption encompasses the proper running of schemes but I am ready to bet my last rupee that none of US ever thought that we were taking to the streets or to our preferred social media to espouse the cause of dying children. We were there because we were fed up of the corruption that affected us. Civil society as it is called is made up of educated and aware people. Is it not their duty to raise its voice all all aberrations one encounters: children dying, children begging, children working in your neighbour’s house. But we are selfish and self centered and the dying children are not part of our minute horizon. So children keep on dying as we keep on living our myopic and pathetic existence. We pretend to be aware of things, well read and informed but will at best pontificate from the comfort of our homes or at cocktail parties with words that remain useless. If one of ours dies in suspect conditions we take to the streets, light candles, write articles and ensure that justice is restored. But the child that dies because of our apathy and indifference does not even affect us. We carry on the party while a child passes away every 18 seconds.
These 5013 are also our children. They have the same rights our children have. Their only sin is to have been born on the wrong side of the fence. Someone needs to take the cudgels on their behalf. Someone like us but will we?