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Deccan Chronicle I Jun 30, 2016
More than half of the world’s children below five years dying, India ranks at the top.
In the WEF’s Human Capital Index of 130 countries, Sri Lanka is ranked 50 while India is a lowly 105.
We have failed our children. Since we are making progress in turbulent times for the global economy, we can take pride in being the fastest growing economy in the world today. However, the stark facts thrown up in two significant reports released by international agencies Unicef and WEF show us up as a nation that has been consistently failing its emerging generations. It points somewhat to our being a delusional country taken up more with conquering space and the digital world and aspiring to be in the elite clubs of nuclear-powered countries while our youngest children are dying, either from pre-term birth complications or of pneumonia. Primarily, we are not able to guarantee our newborn children a right to life and then a right to education. Of the five countries accounting for more than half of the world’s children below five years dying, India ranks at the top, or should we say at the bottom of the pile as we nestle among countries like Nigeria, Pakistan, Congo and Angola.
Need more be said about where we stand in the world? If the latest reports do not serve as a wake-up call to all those dreaming of India as a superpower, nothing will. We fare so poorly in terms of tending to child care, children’s education and training of the work force towards realising the economic potential of the population, that it negates the theoretical advantage of a demographically young nation. In the WEF’s Human Capital Index of 130 countries, Sri Lanka is ranked 50 while India is a lowly 105, suggesting there is immense scope to recast “policies and investments in education and skills and provide guidance on how to prepare the workforce for the future demands of the global economy”. This is happening because the nation and the states are increasingly permitting the market to handle most of these functions, particularly early education and primary health care of pregnant women. But needy people cannot afford the market.
Till human welfare becomes the topmost priority, the process of India becoming great will elicit huge doses of scepticism. Take knowledge, for instance. It is forecast that education alone would enable women to delay marriage and space births. If all mothers got secondary education, there would be 1.43 million fewer deaths every year of children under five in South Asia. While schemes generating jobs for the poor and tending to their food security are laudable, where we fail most is in basic human care of women and children. Sensitising women to fulfil the compelling need to educate their children right from pre-school would be a major first step. The future of our society and nation revolves around how well we look after the youngest.