Children’s Day is a gimmick and a cruel hypocritical joke

Justice Markandey Katju-

Justice Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.

Today, 14th November is the birthday of Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, and is declared as Children’s Day.

How do we celebrate Children’s Day? We can only honestly do that after ensuring that no child is abused or exploited, no child is deprived of food, clothing, education, medicine and shelter, no child is treated with hatred and made to have an inferiority complex.

But how do we ensure that?

In Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India, [1984] 2 SCC 244 while emphasizing the importance of children the Supreme Court observed :

“It is obvious that in a civilized society the importance of child welfare cannot be over-emphasized, because the welfare of the entire community, its growth and development, depend on the health and well-being of its children. Children are a ‘supremely important national asset’ and the future well- being of the nation depends on how its children grow and develop.”

The Supreme Court in several decisions has held that the right to life mentioned in Article 21 of the Constitution means the right to a life of dignity. Hence everyone, including children and women, are entitled to food, medical care, education, clothing, shelter, etc as these are part of a life of dignity.

Thus, in Chameli Singh vs State of UP, 1995, the Supreme Court held

” Right to live guaranteed in any civilized society implies the right to food, water, decent environment, education, medical care, and shelter “.

Thus, children too should have the right to food, water, education, medical care, etc.

In Unnikrishnan vs State of Tamilnadu, the Supreme Court held that the right to primary education is a fundamental right included in Article 21 of the Constitution.

In Gaurav Jain vs Union of India, the Supreme Court held that the children of prostitutes have the right to equality, dignity, care, protection and rehabilitation so that they do not suffer from any stigma.

In MC Mehta vs State of Tamilnadu, 1996, the Court held that children should not be made to do hazardous work, e.g. in a fireworks factory.

In Vishal Jeet vs Union of India the Supreme Court held that no child should be forced into prostitution due to poverty.

But these are just words. Court verdicts, unless implemented on the ground, are just hollow talk. What is the ground reality ?

The truth is that tens of millions of our children are living in horrible conditions, without proper food, education, health care etc, often in slums with no proper electricity, water and toilet facilities, etc. Countless child girls are often driven into the sex trade due to poverty.

I once went to have a meal in a small restaurant. I was served by a tiny boy, about 10 or 12 years old. I asked him why was he working here, and was not in school ? He replied that his father was too poor to send him to school, so he had to work to earn some money.

So isn’t celebrating Children’s Day a cruel hypocrisy and a gimmick?

I am reminded of Sahir Ludhianvi’s verses :

” Zara mulk ke rehbaron ko bulao

Yeh kooche yeh galiyaan yeh manzar dikhao

Sanaakhwaan-e-taqdees-e-mashriq ko lao

Sanaakhwaan-e-taqdees-e-mashriq kahaan hain ? ”


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