New Delhi, For India to take full advantage of the demographic dividend,Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday called for a well-strategised collective action on multiple fronts to ensure the well-being of young children.
“…there should be well-strategised collective action on multiple fronts. Ensuring the well-being of the young child assumes greater importance if India has to take full advantage of its demographic dividend,” Naidu said.
He emphasised on child development as the foundation of development architecture, while releasing ‘The State of Young Child in India’ report, a comprehensive account of the challenges related to early child development in India.
Quoting from the report, the Vice President said that of the 159 million children aged below 6 years in India, 21 per cent are undernourished, 36 per cent are underweight and 38 per cent do not receive full immunisation.”These figures underline the crucial importance to invest in early childhood for realizing the full potential in later years,” he said.
Pointing out that poor nutrition hampers physical as well as intellectual development of children, the Vice President said it would make them vulnerable to illness and affect their performance in school. “We need to understand the crucial importance of this aspect of national development and take effective steps to ensure all children have a healthy start to their lives”, he added.
Underlining the importance of ensuring healthy, happy, caring and playful early years for children for their holistic development, he observed that adequate nutrition and a positive caring environment at home play an important role in a child’s development. The years from birth until the age of five were critical, he pointed out.
Referring to several comprehensive policies and flagship programmes such as the ICDS and India’s conscious efforts to meet international commitments like the UN Convention on Rights of the Child, he said the challenges were still huge and needed to be addressed.
Naidu said it was important for all stakeholders, including the government, policy makers and civil society organisations to intensify their efforts in ensuring the well-being of the young child through better policies and effective programmatic interventions.
Naidu emphasised the need for uplift of the last man in the true spirit of Antyodaya as espoused by Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay.