Children’s’ Day is celebrated in many places across the globe on different dates to commemorate children and their rights. The International Day of Children is listed as June 1. In India, however this day also known as Bal Divas is celebrated on 14th November, to honour and uphold the care, rights and education of children.
14th November was designated in India as the Children’s Day to coincide with the birthday of Pandit Jawaharlal Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of the Nation, for whom the children has special fondness. Celebrated for the first time in 1964, post his demise, Nehru, in his lifetime had a special bonding with the children whom he termed as the future of the Nation and citizens of tomorrow. He laid emphasis on their loving and careful nurturing and children showered their love on him by endearingly referring to him as ‘Chacha Nehru’. (Prior to his demise, India too followed the United Nations observance of the Universal Children’s Day on 20th November)
Nehru, in his early years had realized the importance of the children and the youth in the building of the Nation. He wished India to emerge as a global economy, capable of participating in the global front. Since more than 200 years of subjugation had kept India and the Indians deprived on a lot many fronts, time was of essence to speed up things on all fronts, especially education and science and technology. Alert to the need of development and education of children, he initiated the wheels of innovation by setting up the Indian Institute of Technology ‘s first branch at Kharagpurin 1951 and All India Institute of Medical Sciences or AIIMS. He even laid down the foundation of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management.
However, even after 53 years of Children’s Day celebration, it is disheartening to note that a large number of children are yet deprived of the basic education and nutrition needs which is the basic birth right of each child. Though the government has formulated policy providing free and compulsory education for all children below 14 years and also provide mid-day meal in the government, semi-government and ‘anganwadi’ (montessori) schools, yet a large section of population does not have access to it on account of existential circumstances. The safety and security of children from child trafficking gangs and other dangers is also under constant threat.
Child Labour, though abolished on paper, is a stark ground reality. From the huge number of rag pickers scavenging on the streets, early morning to those washing dirty cups at the roadside tea stall and serving food at the neighborhood eatery, to the umpteen hundreds risking their eyes at glass factories and their lives at cracker industries, the truth is undeniably bitter.
Nehru had once said “the children of today will make the India of tomorrow. The way we bring them up will determine the future of the country’. He, on his part had left behind a legacy of education and development for the well-being of the children of the country yet a lot remains to be done. The spirit to celebrate this day must draw from the fact that every child needs to be empowered and their welfare supported by the actions and words of adults around them.
The essence of Children’s Day shall actually be realized when all children have equal access to proper health, elementary education, family life, recreation, and a decent standard of living, protected from all harm and abuse.