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Child Care Standard

Child care in India and sensitizing citizens on the larger question of children’s welfare needs a proper relook both from the cultural standpoint as well as legal framework. Not that children in India are not looked after well or that parenting is bad but simply because in this age of global competitiveness and great strides made in every sphere of life, human standards have improved a great deal. The recent incident involving an Indian couple’s children being taken away by Norwegian social services on objections of them being fed by hand and sleeping in their parents’ bed has attracted worldwide attention and the intervention of the Indian government. In fact this has more to do with cultural differences and way of life in the developing world and one should not see it from the point of right or wrong. To Indian sensibilities it would have come as a rude shock when children are taken away from their parents and put under protective care of Child Welfare Services. But for Norwegian authorities they would equate being fed by hand as force feeding and deem it inappropriate for parents to sleep with their children. As rightly defended by the Indian father to Norwegian authorities, “this is purely a cultural issue and we never leave the children in another room and say goodnight to them”.
Nevertheless, for a country with a billion people and a growing population maybe it is time to reflect on the status and condition of children in India. As stated in a media report, the Norwegians appear to be overzealous in its efforts to protect the rights of children but what about Indians failure to protect their children. Just take the case of Baby Falak whose battered image under ICU at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) has been in the news for sometime now. Shocking that the child was brought to the hospital with severe head injury, both her arms broken, bite marks all over her body and her cheeks branded with hot iron.  She was brought to the hospital by a teenaged girl, who was looking after her when her boyfriend left the girl with her, got her admitted. So do you think baby Falak was living in a safe environment leave alone not having a home or parents to look after? In fact if the Norwegians are overzealous in protecting children’s rights going by the track record India seems to be apathetic-indifferent towards child care.
In fact in the run up to the controversial Commonwealth Games in 2010 there was a similar incident to do with the ‘culture thing’ centering around ‘hygiene’. When complaints were raised by several of the foreign delegations on the ‘dirty and unhygienic’ condition of the games village one of the senior official argued that Indian standard of hygiene was different. At that time this column had commented that the argument given by the Indian official is actually not very surprising given that those in the sub-continent are used to poor level of cleanliness and hygiene whether at home, our work places or in our day to day life. The point is we have to improve our standard in all walks of life whether it is quality in child care, construction, human resource, education, security or hygiene. This substandard that we are used to cannot be acceptable to the outside world. If India is to compete globally, it must adapt and improve on many things so that the country and its people are not left behind in the race for excellence. Cultural heritage or way of living cannot exist in a vacuum. They must stand the test of universally accepted human standard and rights. Things like love, care, protection and the right to life go beyond nationality or culture. If anything, laws to protect children (in this case) must be strengthened. Apparently, the woman who is believed to the mother of Baby Falak has asked for custody of the two-year-old, who is currently fighting for her life at Delhi's AIIMS hospital. After what the little girl had to go through—abuse, violence and near death—this should be turned down.

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