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Promoting Green Buildings:VITAL NEED FOR CHANGE, byRadhakrishna Rao, 7 December 2007 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 7 December 2007

Promoting Green Buildings


By Radhakrishna Rao

Following widespread concern over global warming brought about by unchecked environmental abuse, there is a growing awareness now of the need to popularize the construction of energy efficient and eco-friendly buildings across the world.

India’s first internationally certified green building that houses the Confederation of Indian Industry-Sohrabji Godrej Business Centre spread over 16,000sq ft was set up in Hyderabad in 2003. Today, the country has over 25 million sq ft of registered green building expanse which is all set to touch a 100 million sq ft by 2010-12.

Importantly, India has all the potentials to emerge as a hub of green building construction and play a significant role in encouraging eco-friendly construction. Green buildings now save on at least a third of the power and water. Moreover, they emit 35 per cent less carbon dioxide.

Though the green buildings cost three per cent more than the conventional buildings, in the long run, they contribute to an average energy savings to the tune of 30 per cent and are a substantial savings on waste handling.

Green builders have stressed the need to reach out to the 100 million people involved in the construction sector the world over. A classic example of an eco-friendly building complex is the Tata Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) at Gopahari village in Haryana, showcasing how green construction makes for higher energy efficiency and recycling of the wastes.

Further, green buildings should generate as much energy as they emit. For instance, a building can produce electricity through solar cells. The design and use of material too would make a difference depending on the geography, weather and local conditions. Be it glass, concrete or wood. But it needs to be underscored that one model won’t suit all

In fact, it is imperative that the country usher in a green building revolution and facilitate India emerging as one of the world leaders in green buildings by 2010. Students need to come up with effective and innovative ideas that could be easily implemented in their school campuses to make them green.

Incidentally, for quite sometime now the industry lobby groups have been in the forefront of the campaign aimed at popularizing the green building concept in the country. More so, as software and multi-national corporations are keen on having green campuses-cum-office complex, making the green building movement in the country good business sense.

In addition to green corporate complexes, eco-friendly individual houses are also becoming a part of the Indian landscape. The green houses allow house owners to not only significantly save on electricity and water but also generate lesser waste. Studies show that a house that is fitted with CFL lamps, solar water heater and recycling facilities saves around Rs.2.560 lakh over a period of six years. Solar water heaters alone will save around Rs.71,000 over six years.

But going green is not just about costs. It is about using resources wisely, as well as a shift in the professional attitude of architects, managers, corporates and all those associated with the green buildings movement.  But a change in the way both architects and their clients envisage their houses and buildings is needed for the green concept to really catch on.

However, a section of Indian architects stated that a lot of the green concept propagated by the industry is on predicted western needs and hence does not make much sense in the Indian context. On the other hand, they lay emphasis on falling back on the local materials and local needs to popularize the green building concept.

Not many are aware that the magnificent concrete and glass buildings in the booming urban centres spread across the globe account for a third of the carbon dioxide emission that contributes to global warming. Thus, the need to promote green building architecture has assumed added significance

But then initial capital investment in regard to green buildings continues to be a major impediment in the way of popularizing the green architecture. A way around this is to bring eco-friendly products into the mainstream and subsidize sustainable technologies, the concept would become more economically feasible.

According to a Professor of the Department of Civil Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, the approach from the construction industry towards sustainability for development must include a thought on using renewable energy and alternate technology — reusing and recycling materials during the design, manufacture, construction and maintenance. Attention should be given to producing less waste and recycling more, producing less toxicity, noise and spatial pollution.

Sadly, despite the ever-rising construction activity, awareness of the green building concept and sustainable architecture in India has significantly lagged behind the countries in the West. Given the fact that the overall sustainable building movement has significant business implications and is an opportunity to make real contribution to the efforts towards curbing India’s growing environmental crisis.

All in all, it needs to be remembered that the green houses are not just about getting appliances such as solar panels. It is much more. Starting from the design of the shell of the construction which should take into account the climatic conditions. True, in an urban area one does not always have the opportunity to incorporate every aspect. But even within fixed parameters, climatic consideration can be taken into account while designing a green building complex or an individual house. Specially, as the business advantages that sustainable buildings create are enormous. ---- INFA

(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)

Rising Farm Suicides:ACUTE AGRARIAN CRISIS,by T.D. Jagadesan, 27 November 2007 Print E-mail

People And Their Problems

New Delhi, 27 November 2007

Rising Farm Suicides


By T.D. Jagadesan

Of the 1.5 lakh Indian farmers who took their own lives between 1997 and 2005, nearly two-thirds did so in the States of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh (including Chhattisgarh).

The number of Indians committing suicide each year rose from around 96,000 in 1997 to roughly 1.14 lakh in 2005. In the same period, the number of farmers who took their own lives each year shot up dramatically. From under 14,000 in 1997 to over 17,000 in 2005. While the rise in farm suicides has been on for over a decade, there have been sharp spurts in some years. For instance, 2004 saw well over 18,200 farm suicides across India. Almost two-thirds of these were in the Big Four of “Suicide SEZ” States.

The year 1998, too, saw a huge increase over the previous year. Farm suicides crossed the 16,000 mark, beating the preceding year by nearly 2,400 such deaths. Farm suicides as a proportion of total suicides rose from 14.2 in 1997 to 15.0 in 2005.

The Annual Compound Growth Rate (ACGR) for all suicides in India over the nine-year period is 2.18 per cent. This is not very much higher than the population growth rate. But for farm suicides it is much higher, at nearly 3 (or 2.91) per cent. Powerfully, the AGGR for suicides committed by consuming pesticides was 2.5 per cent. Close to the figure for farmers.

Although alarming, it still does not capture the full picture. The data on suicides is complex, and sometimes misleading. Not just because of the flawed manner in which they are put together, or because of who puts them together. There are other problems, too. Farmers’ suicides as a percentage of the total number of farmers is hard to calculate on a yearly basis. A clear national “farm suicide rate” can be derived only for 2001. That is because we have the census to tell us how many farmers there were in the country that year. For other years, that figure would be a conjecture, however plausible.

But even in 2001, when the farm suicides had not reached their worst, the farm suicide rate (FSR) at 12.9 was much higher than the general suicide rate (GSR) at 10.6 for that year. But the GSR slowed down after that to 10.3 by 2005 even as the total number of suicides went up. It means that the increase in the number of general suicides did not keep pace with the growth in general population.                                                                                           

In 2005, the Big Four or “Suicide SEZ” States accounted for 43.9 per cent of all suicides and 64.0 per cent of all farm suicides in the country. By contract, a group of States with the highest general suicide rates --- including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura and Puducherry --- accounted for 20.5 per cent of farm suicides in India.

To the extent the media have covered the farm crisis, their focus has been on farm suicides in four States --- Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. Very broadly speaking, that appears to have been right. All have very high rates of farmers’ suicides. Madhya Pradesh though is a major State showing such trends which has received scant attention.

It is important that the figure of 1.5 lakh farm suicides is a bottom line estimate. It is by no means accurate or exhaustive. There are inherent and serious inaccuracies in the NCRB data as they are based on ground data that exclude large groups of people.

The quality of reporting also varies from State to State. For instance, Haryana shows a very low ratio of farm suicides to general suicides. This conflicts with other assessments of the problem in that State. Data from Punjab have also been highly contested by groups monitoring the farm crisis there. However, even in this flawed data, the trends are clear and alarming. But what has driven the huge increase in farm suicides, particularly in the Big Four or “Suicide SEZ” States?

There exists since the mid-90s, an acute agrarian crisis. That’s across the country. In the Big Four and some other States, specific factors compound the problem. These are zones of highly diversified, commercialized agriculture. Cash crops dominate.

Water stress has been a common feature and problems with land and water have worsened as State investment in agriculture continues to decline, even disappear. At the same time, cultivation costs have shot up in these high input zones, with some inputs costing several hundred per cent more. The lack of regulation of these and other aspects of agriculture have sharpened those problems and deepened the agrarian crisis.---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

Check Global Warming:INDIA AWARE OF COMMITMENT,by Dhurjati Mukherjee,13 November 2007 Print E-mail

People & Their Problems

New Delhi, 13 November 2007     

Check Global Warming


By Dhurjati Mukherjee

Weather the world over is going crazy. If Los Angeles on the US’s West Coast last month witnessed unheard of bush fires leading to massive human evacuation, and its East Coast is periodically ravaged by hurricanes, can India be far behind? Delhi is experiencing its coldest November in recent years, Bihar was ravaged by unprecedented floods till two months ago and it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict where the summer season ends and the monsoon sets in what to say of winter? While scientists blame it on the El Nino affect and environmentalist warn of dire consequences of untold  misery awaiting mankind and Governments the world over grapple with various ways to reduce environmental man-made disasters thanks to the unabated plundering of natural resources ---- water, land soil erosion green house gases pollution et al .  

The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize has aptly been awarded to the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the former American vice president, Al Gore, which clearly signaled the importance of stabilizing the earth’s climate and controlling global warming. Incidentally the IPCC is now headed by Dr. R. P. Pachauri, the TERI chief, who also deserves credit for his achievement in releasing three volumes of the assessment report while the fourth one, The Synthesis Report, is expected to be ready in November this year.

This announcement of the prize comes close on the heels after the G-8 conference which deliberated on the subject of climate change and merely agreed to “seriously consider” halving of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The rigid stand of the USA may have softened a bit but its overall position that the emerging economies, specially India and China, have to adhere to some restrictions did not possibly change.

The per capita emissions are today the highest in the world. as per figures of 1999. The US topped the list with 5.60 tonnes of emission per person, Russia followed with 2.72, the European Union and Japan both 2.40, China 0.53 and India close to 0.25 tonnes per person.  Thos has increased considerably in subsequent years, specially by the developed world though emissions by China and India have also shown a marked rise because of the steady pace on industrialization in these countries.

Keeping in view international pressures and also the need to check curb emissions, India has been seriously considering the problem. Recently the Prime Minister set up a high level group of senior ministers and non-government experts on climate change to help fashion a response to global warming and demands that India take on commitments to cut greenhouse emissions. The group includes ministers of finance, external affairs, environment and also the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission and advisers on science and technology. The non-governmental side is represented by Dr. R. K. Pachauri, chairperson of TERI, Pradipto Ghosh, former environment secretary, Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science & Environment and Ratan Tata, chairman of the Investment Commission.           

Though this Committee would formulate guidelines for controlling emissions and other related issues, already certain steps have been taken in this regard. There is serious attempt by the Central and state governments to control air pollution in the metropolises and in most places the stringent rules of controlling vehicular emissions are being followed. This has become all the more necessary because for an overpopulated country like ours because lakhs of people live in slums and squatter settlements who are greatly affected because of air pollution.

Moreover the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been trying to enforce through the state boards control of emissions from industry and power plants. Another important aspect in the country is to explore the various forms of non-renewable sources of energy apart from the emphasis on exploiting hydel energy, wherever it is possible. The country’s per capita consumption of electricity is around 440 units (compared to Brazil’s 1980 and China’s 1380 units) and the country may have to add 3880 billion kilowatt hours of electricity by 2030 to sustain the present rate of growth. The thrust is on nuclear and hydel power though around 70 per cent of the electricity may come from thermal plants.

It is well known that India has vast reserves of thorium and this could be used for our nuclear power programmes, even if the Indo-US deal does not materialize because of the reported objections by the Left parties and also some technical differences raised by a section of scientists. Scientists in the country have for quite some time been seriously experimenting how thorium (and not uranium) could be effectively used for reactors. It may be pointed out here that High Temperature Reactor Technology has already been proved in Germany and is now being taken up in China and South Africa. And this is based on thorium and much safer than contemporary reactors.

The cry the world over to stabilize greenhouse gases would no doubt affect India in the long run. According to a report by Lehman Brothers India, India’s GDP would dip by 5 per cent for every two degrees temperature rise and for the next 6 degrees, the effect would be 15-16 per cent. The report titled The Business of Climate Change II, a sequel to its earlier report on climate change, Lehman Brothers has said that the US, the European Union, are estimated to have accounted Russia, Japan for nearly 70 per cent of the build-up of fossil fuel CO2 between 1850 and 2004.

Meanwhile at a recent conference organized by TERI, Dr. Prodipto Ghosh, an expert on the subject, estimated that it would cost the government & 2.53 trillion in investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 9.7 per cent by 2036 if 1990 emission levels are taken as the baseline.

Based on computations at TERI, the cost of demanding high levels of efficiency from the manufacturing sector could hit the country’s economic growth beyond a limit. The calculations show that India could achieve 3 per cent efficiency in its total energy consumption methods without hitting growth but a further push for 9 per cent efficiency could mean exploitatively high cost. This data was presented to the international community at Vienna recently at an international meeting in preparation for the IPCC’s Bali conference in December. 

By 2030 India is expected to reach the current levels of US carbon emissions with all its negative implications for global warming. This has been a cause for concern for scientists and planners in the country and more stringent emissions measures are likely to be taken in the coming years. Though India and other developing countries have been arguing that developed countries grew rich through a fossil-fuel burning economic growth model and that it would be inequitable to seek to prevent them from following a similar path, there has been pressures for the country to check emissions.  

It is thus quite clear that the argument of Nicholas Stern of UK that taking action to reduce climate change would not hurt the growing economies of countries such as India is not quite prudent. Even then the pressure is on China and India to agree to some kind of emission cuts. In fact, the EU has been saying that it is the only way to convince the USA and Australia to undertake commitments in the new phase of Kyoto Protocol.

The IPCC has estimated that in South Asia 500 million0 people would be affected by reduced river flows in the northern part of the subcontinent and about 250 million in China. It is further estimated that the range of people exposed to increased water stress by 2050 would include 120 million to 1.2 billion in Asia, 75 to 250 million in Africa and 12 to 81 million in Latin America. Thus climate change affects us all. Therefore it is imperative that a global effort has to be initiated at this juncture and countries such as China, India and South Africa would have to play a crucial role in the coming years. However, it remains to be seen whether the US and the EU would make some sacrifices and set aside 10 per cent of their defence budget for another form of security expenditure – one that protects mankind from possible extinction.---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)







Racketeering In Human Organs:IMPETUS TO ORGAN DONATION VITAL,Radhakrishna Rao, 2 November 2007 Print E-mail

People & Their Problems

New Delhi, 2 November 2007

Racketeering In Human Organs


By Radhakrishna Rao

For more than two decades now, a thriving, well organized illegal trading in human organs in general, and kidneys in particular, has been going on in virtually every part of India. Touts hand in glove with a microscopic section of the medical fraternity that has no regard for ethics continue to sustain the tempo of the underground business in kidneys and other vital human organs.

Despite vigorous efforts by the voluntary organizations and the Government agencies to promote organ transplantation in a “legal and transparent manner”, there has been no let up in racketeering in human organs.

In order to minimize the vicious impact of the illegal trading in human organs, the Union Health Ministry has proposed setting up a country-wide network of nodal centres to retrieve organs from brain dead patients. To be named the Organ Retrieval Bank Organisation (ORBO), it would be set up in ten cities --- including Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore with a view to serve as a central organ registry and retrieval centre. These nodal centres will be set up under the National Organ Transplantation Programme.

Meanwhile the Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramdoss hinted at amending the Transplantation of Human Organs Act to make organ transplantation a “smoother and transparent affair”. One of the likely amendments to the Act would be the inclusion of provision to provide incentives to the family members of cadaver donors. Currently only 0.1 per cent of our transplantation are cadaveric .We have a long way to go” said Ramdoss.

In September last, a major kidney racket was exposed in Bangalore. According to the local media, the accused got kidney transplantation operations done in three hospitals with organs procured from four fake donors.

The Bangalore City Police who unearthed this scam said that the accused received commission of Rs.15,000 while each fake kidney donor got Rs 1.25 lakh. The police also said that “organizing the unrelated live kidney transplantation was like a profession for the accused.” He along with his accomplices went around looking for “vulnerable people, mainly the poor, in the rural areas and lured them into donating the kidney,” asserted one Bangalore police official.

As per the law, only organs donated by the blood donors or harvested from a dead body could be transplanted to a patient. As medical professionals point out in an unrelated kidney transplant —   implying that the kidney is not from the blood relatives — there is a higher rate of rejection by the recipient’s body.

According to Dr.Venkatesh Krishnamurthy, a well-known Bangalore nephrologist, in an unrelated kidney transplant, the cost of maintaining the transplanted organ is higher as the dosage of medicine has to be more.

A member of the Authorization Committee set up by the Karnataka Government to prevent illegal trading in kidneys stated that in most cases it is the poor who are lured into parting away with their vital body organs in return for monetary compensation. Adding, that cases had also come to light wherein the touts even marry the donors to provide credibility to the illegal commerce in human organs.

In recent years, many private corporate hospitals in Bangalore are known to be performing unrelated kidney transplantation operations on patients from India and abroad. As pointed out by a spokesman of the Karnataka Medical Council, the kidney racket in the city and other parts of the State could not have thrived without the support of hospitals and doctors. “In my opinion, the police cannot say that the doctors and hospitals are not at fault. It would not have been possible without the connivance of the hospitals” said he.

As things stand now, renal transplants and follow-up medi-care are terribly costly. A kidney transplant, surgery and post-operative care in a well-equipped hospital could cost as much as Rs.5 lakh. Moreover, the chances of the transplanted kidney getting rejected could not be ruled out. As such prevention is easier and a more cost-effective strategy.

According to Dr.M.K.Mani, Chief Nephrologist at the Chennai-based Apollo Hospital, diabetes accounted for around 30 per cent of all chronic renal failures in India and hypertension another 10 per cent. Not surprisingly then, controlling these two major maladies could result in the declining incidence of kidney-related ailments.

The programme run by the Kidney Help Trust in the villages of Tamil Nadu has helped create awareness about the gravity of kidney-related problems. “This is something which can fit easily into a Government programme” said Dr.Mani.

In India, more than 20 million people develop kidney problems at any one given time with nearly one lakh developing the end-stage renal failure each year. Any wonder that lakhs of kidney transplants are performed clandestinely with the kidneys being procured for a price from the poor inhabitants of shanty towns forming a part of India’s urban landscape.

In western countries, information about the availability of organs including kidneys for transplants is available on a compute system in every country. Sadly, India lacks such a communications network.

As it stands, the Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994 adopted in 1995 paved the way for harvesting organs from brain dead individuals. However, the machinery to supervise the extraction, transportation and transplantation of the organs is far from well-organized. As such very few organs are harvested from accident victims, the most ideal and major source of human organs for transplantation.

On an average 70,000 people die in accidents in the country each year. Of these, 20,000 people end up as brain dead cases. But the process of donating the organ of a brain dead person is a far from smooth task. Often the relatives decline to donate organs. Many are averse about an organ being removed from a brain dead body whose heart beats and pulses continue to be recordable.

Further, according to the Chairman of the Apollo Group of Hospitals, Dr.Pratap Reddy, the recipient should be able to reach the hospital within three hours of the procurement of an organ from the corpse.

True, there are many medical institutions, which carry out kidney transplants without transgressing the canons of law. For instance, the Bangalore Kidney Foundation (BKF) is a far cry from the rash of private clinics that have become notorious for trading in kidneys. As pointed out by a spokesman of the BKF, it is always possible to carry out transplants as per the existing laws

.As medical experts stated, for a successful cadaveric kidney transplantation programme, coordination and interface between private hospitals, where most of the kidney transplants are performed and public hospitals from where most of the donor organs come, is vital. However, in the context of the fast growing waiting list for kidney transplants in the country, quickening impetus must be given to the organ donation campaign. ---- INFA

(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)

Child Labour:A LOT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE,by Dhurjati Mukherjee,20 October 2007 Print E-mail

People And Their Problems

New Delhi, 20 October 2007

Child Labour


By Dhurjati Mukherjee

Child labour represents a fundamental abuse of child right and a violation of international and national laws. Many working children who are employed as bonded labour or prostitutes are engaged in occupations that negatively affect their physical, mental or moral well-being and are below their country’s minimum age for employment. Matters have been made worse by rampant physical abuse of children in different countries, including India.

The Hindi belt, including Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, commonly known as BIMARU States, account for 1.27 crore working children in the country, engaged in both hazardous and non-hazardous occupations and process. The maximum number of over 19 lakh child labour in the 5-14 age group are in the Uttar Pradesh. Rajasthan accounts for over 12.6 lakh workers followed by Bihar with over 11 lakh and Madhya Pradesh with 10.6 lakh. However, according to the 2001 census, in state-wise distribution of working children in the 5-14 age group, Andhra Pradesh with 13.6 lakh child labour stands second in the national list after U.P.

Largest Number In India

According to a UNICEF report, World’s Children 2006, India has the largest number of working children and 17 per cent of them are under the age of 15. Girls aged 12-13 are the preferred choice of 90 per cent households. Noting that all children should have access to quality education, the ILO believes that universal access to schooling is a key component in ending child labour and their exposure to violence in the work place.

In India, the problem has received some attention.  The Ministry of Labour has asked the Planning Commission for about Rs.1500 crore to cover all the 600 districts under the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) as against the 250 districts at present. According to the Ministry, children working in 57 hazardous industries, in dhabas and homes (in the 9-14 age group) would be covered under the project. The NGOs have been authorized to open residential schools for 40 children in each district to bring them back into the mainstream.

Child Labour Regulations

Schools are expected to be opened in most districts after a detailed survey by a district level committee, headed by a district collector, who would also monitor the scheme. The students in these schools would get a stipend of Rs.100 each from the Government every month. They would be covered under other Government schemes like the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan.

Meanwhile, the hospitality industry and domestic helps have been put under child labour regulations from October 10, 2006 as the Government is determined to check this menace. Also, the passage of Offences Against Children Bill, drawn up in 2006, is expected to be passed by Parliament before long. In fact, the country has woken up to the need for a comprehensive strategy to tackle child labour and deal with crimes perpetrated against children.

India is a signatory to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and ratified the document in 1992. Article 19 of the Rights of the Child mentions: “State parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence… including sexual abuse.”

Curb Sexual Offences

Sadly, it took the country 14 years to formulate a law against sexual offences, which need to be curbed with an iron hand. Being the most vulnerable sections of society, children have been the soft target for large-scale human trafficking. In fact, child trafficking is happening for different legal and illegal purposes. These children, mostly coming from poor and backward communities, have no other option but to join such work and be exploited in different ways.

Of interest are the findings of the International Organization for Migration (IMO). These show that the global human industry generates up to $8 billion each year. Its report further discloses that an estimated 5,000 to 70,000 young girls between the 5 to 10 age group are trafficked into India every year. South Asia and South East Asia have been the centre for large scale trafficking of children, especially young girls, for sexual exploitation.

Children in Hazardous Industries

Apart from this aspect, the employment of children in hazardous industries is another cause for concern. The mining industry is one such sector as a result of which child labour is rampant in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Other affected States include Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan that are traditionally the BIMARU regions of the country.

Legislative measures alone will not cut down the various offences against children. This is because not much has happened.  Labour inspectors, for instance, have not been stringent in bringing the violators to book. They should be asked to submit time-bound reports on the enforcement of the law. Child labour is not an isolated problem. Many Ministries such as Labour, Education and Women and Child Welfare need to coordinate to make a sense of the spirit behind the law.

Develop Infrastructure

There is urgent need for large-scale social infrastructure development, namely, special emphasis on education and health. Moreover, strong political will and involvement of the community would be greatly necessary to curb child exploitation and ensure their attendance in school, at least till they reach the age of 14. In this regard, NGOs and Community-Based Organizations would have a vital role to play.

The pledge that all children would be in school by the end of the Tenth Plan is a far cry and sincere attempts need to be made now to make this a reality by the end of the Eleventh Plan. One may mention here that other targets of completion of five years of schooling by 2007 and a 50 per cent reduction of the gender gaps in literacy and wage rates by 2007 would also not be achieved this year. The Government has admitted its failure in the Mid-Term Appraisal and underlined the urgency of addressing violence against children and the problems of their security, especially that of girls.

Clearly, there is imperative need for strong political will in this regard and strong partnerships with the NGOs and CBOs who should be given a major part of the work in ensuring children’s rights. These organizations work with the community and their ability to penetrate and carry out the desired work is well known.

Economic Costs And Benifits

There are powerful arguments for elimination of child labour for a healthy society. Not only is child labour an effect of poverty, it is also a major cause of poverty.  In a study by the World Bank in 1998,  it was found that countries with an annual per capita income of US$500 or less (at 1987 prices) the labour force participation rate of children aged 10-14 was 30-60 per cent compared to only 10-30 per cent in countries with an annual per capita income of $500-1000. India has the largest number of child workers in South Asia.

Another study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO, 2003), which as the first integrated analysis of the economic costs and benefits of eliminating child labour, found that the benefits of such elimination in India and other Asian countries would be nearly seven times greater than the costs.  The reduction of child labour would also help achieve the health and education Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Despite legislative and policy measures and institutions geared to addressing child labour, its magnitude in India indicates that a lot more needs to be done in making poverty-focused programmes effective and in spreading the network of basic education to the rural and backward areas of the region. We must remember that children are the future torch-bearers of the country. If they are not cared and nurtured properly, the future may not be all that encouraging. ---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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