Annual cost of malnutrition is 3-4 per cent of GDP
THE EVIDENCE is compelling. Planners, implementers and academics all agree that the prevalence of malnutrition and child labour seriously obstructs economic growth.
Dozens of global studies testify that children's malnutrition upsets their lifelong productivity, disease resistance and cognitive abilities. For low-income countries, the annual cost of malnutrition is three to four per cent of their GDP, cautions an ADBUNICEF study of seven Asian nations including India.
Let us take a quick look at the child's environment in India. Sixty years after independence, most children lack proper access to safe drinking water, adequate medical care or sanitation. About two third of babies are born anemic and a third stunted, according to National Family Health Survey 2005-06. In six states for which complete data is available, only 60 per cent children are immunized. With 47 per cent of its below-five population malnourished, India tops the ignominious global chart of underweight children.
Those who survive such bleak circumstances grow up as potential victims of human trafficking, child abuse, forced labour, and hazardous work. Seventy five per cent children are physically and 50 per cent are sexually abused, according to a Ministry of Women and Child Development study 2007. Of this about a quarter of all children face severe sexual abuse and 50 per cent work seven days a week. India also leads the world in the prevalence of child labour despite its official statistics widely believed to be understated.
This month, India's ban on child labour completes one year Its overall share of children at work has declined from 34 per cent in 1951 to a little over 12 per cent in 2001, but sadly, the absolute numbers may not have come down. Niti Mehta of the Sardar Patel Institute of Economics and Research says in a 2007 paper that a part of the 29 to 34 million 'idlers' (who are neither enrolled in schools nor a part of the official labour Brassware Operating mainly out of Moradabad, the industry is made up of small unregistered shops that continue to flout labour laws. Employing some 40,000 children, it pays them a mere Rs 174 per month for furnace work, moulding, electroplating, polishing and acid polishing its wares. Glassware Concontrated in and around Firozabad, the glass factories produce bangles, chandoliers & crockery.
While they employ up to 50,000 children, they do nothing to protect them from the high temporatures, molten glass & splintors that injure them daily. 00mestic Workers Despite the ban on children in domestic work, 23% of all child workers continue to be domestic workers. Of these 80% are girls. Worse still, the opaQue nature of this sector has made it difficult to gauge the extent of abuse meted out to these little workers. Street Stalls This particular sector raises serious questions about child abuse as more than 53% of the children it employs fall in the delicate age group of 5 to 12 years. The Child Abuse Report estimates 11.29'o of all working children are employed in this sector.