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CHILDREN PLACE DEMANDS FOR WELFARE BEFORE POLITICAL PARTIES

Children's participation in democracy

CRUCIAL ISSUES TO BE INCLUDED IN MANIFESTOES FOR ASSEMBLY ELECTION

Jaipur, Oct. 23: The children of Rajasthan, who will become the voters taking part in the country's democratic processes after a few years, placed a unique demand before the political parties here today for including their crucial issues in the manifestoes of parties for the upcoming Assembly election in Rajasthan. The need is the outcome of a series of seven workshops organized at all the divisional headquarters since August 31, in which over 900 children had participated.

Children below 18 years of age comprise 41% of the population of Rajasthan. If the teenagers till 19 included in this population, the figures touch 49.6%, requiring steps for their holistic development by the government and the society at large. Without an effective intervention for improving their situation, children cannot become responsible citizens of tomorrow.

The initiative for inculcating democratic aspirations among children and ensuring their participation in the democratic process, rule of the people and public causes in both the Rajasthan Assembly election of 2018 and Lok Sabha elections of 2019 has been taken by the Rajasthan Baal Adhikar Sanrakshan Sajha Abhiyan in association with the Girls Not Bride – Rajasthan Group, Rajasthan RTI Forum, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and Baal Suraksha Network.

Over 200 children and representatives of more than 100 organizations placed a charter of demands before the political parties at a state-level conference at Totuka Auditorium here today. The chief organizer of the campaign and the programme, Resource Institute for Human Rights (RIHR), has received support from UNICEF, Save the Children, Action Aid, Plan India, UNFPA and World Vision.

Speaking at the function, RIHR spokesperson Mr. Vijay Goyal said the series of workshops had helped identify the issues, expectations, and demands of children, on the basis of which a charter of demand along with the declaration had been prepared. The political leaders present on the occasion supported him and said their parties would include children's issues in their manifestoes.

From the political parties contesting the Assembly election, Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Mr. Rao Rajendra Singh (BJP), Mr. Mahesh Sharma, general secretary of Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee, State Women's Commission Chairperson Ms. Suman Sharma (BJP), Dr. Sanjay Madhav (Communist Party of India – Marxist), Ms. Nisha Siddhu (Communist Party of India), Mr. T.P. Sharma (Aam Aadmi Party) and Mr. Shailendra Awasthi (Samajwadi Party) were present at the function.

Ms. Suman Sharma said she was glad to note that an effective platform had been created for children who were raising the issues of their basic rights. The problems pertaining to children were eye-opening for the politicians, she said while promising that she will refer the charter of demands to BJP's manifesto committee. Mr. Awasthi said the children should continue to exert pressure on political parties to get their demands fulfilled.

Ms. Nisha Siddhu said the closure of thousands of schools as a result of a merger had deprived the children of low-income families of their right to education. She said her party, CPI, would continue to raise such issues as it has been in the Opposition for a long time. Dr. Madhav said the era of privatization which had begun in 1993 had created problems for the poor and downtrodden and deprived them of their livelihood, while the questions of children's rights related to the welfare state.

A large number of children from different districts, including the deaf and dumb students of schools and colleges, raised the critical issues which were affecting their growth and development. They also challenged the traditions of educational opportunities denied to the girls and children forced into unwanted marriages at the tender age.

Children's participation in democracyThe demands of children pertained to their education, protection, development at Anganwadi Centres, health care services in the government hospitals, implementation of laws and programmes for their welfare and their regular interaction with the elected representatives and political leaders. Significantly, the children demanded that all the political parties should establish separate cells for them. Also, organizing Baal Sabhas at the village panchayat level should be made mandatory.

The two-day workshops of children were organized by Baal Suraksha Network in Udaipur from August 31 to September 1, while Educate Girls organized the workshop in Ajmer on September 5 and 6. Urmul Trust organized two workshops in Bikaner on September 6 and 7 and in Jodhpur on September 8 and 9. FXB India organized the workshop in Jaipur on September 11 and 12, while Prayatn and AMIED organized it in Bharatpur on September 14 and 15. Antakshari Foundation and Bharat Scouts and Guides organized the workshop in Kota on September 17 and 18.

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