The year 2020 saw the spread of the Covid-19 virus, that translated into a pandemic and the subsequent lockdown of the entire world. Among all the chaos that ensued last year, the children were the most affected due the safety and other measures taken to contain the spread of the virus. The list of children’s issues that were magnified became endless – from closed schools, mental health, child labour, to abuse and violence, multiple parallel pandemics grew as outcomes of the covid19 pandemic.
As we move towards 2021, we need to take stock of the damage done to millions of childhoods and understand what we need to change for children in 2021. Here are a few stark reminders of what we need to prioritise.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), crimes against children has been on the rise since the past few years with a rise of approximately 83% in the cases from 2017 to 2019. Experts say that this alarming increase in the crimes against the children is due to the low conviction rates. The conviction rates for the crime against children like murder, kidnapping among others stand at only 17.6% in 2019. As the pandemic hit and the lockdown was implemented, this huge rise in the crimes against the children has to be changed as we move towards 2021.
Of the total covid-19 cases in India, around 12% of the people affected from the virus were the children and adolescent aged under 20 and this virus has impacted the health of the young more than originally anticipated. The pandemic has affected children due to the disruptions in education, healthcare, nutrition, and other essential services too. Experts said that the covid-19 measures and their impacts will lead to children malnutrition along with other child issues such as wasting, stunting and child deaths. The overall physical heath of the children is facing a huge risk as the virus spreads and it directly affects their overall growth and development.
Lack of social interaction for the children may lead them to develop anti-social habits or autistic behavior. As the lockdown was implemented in March 2019, the children were forced to say home for almost 10 months and spend more time playing games on gadgets or online schooling. Due to the lack of interaction with outsiders, the kids may develop mental issues like social and separation anxiety as the toddlers and children will get used to being around their family and not meeting new people. Going to school and interacting with their teachers and classmates helps in the development of a child’s social behavior but has been impeded due to the closure of schools. This in turn affected their mental health with majority of children experiencing these issues and having mental health issues at such a young age is perilous and it needs to be taken care of before the situation worsens.
A total of 37 minors aged from 12 to 17 were rescued from different factories by anti-human trafficking unit and the volunteers of an NGO. These minors belonged to West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and other parts of the city and were working there from a period of two years to one month. These children were made to work for 12 hours a day and were paid between Rs.5000 to Rs.12000 a month, at clothes units, jeans making factories or rubber print factories. These children were rescued and legal actions were taken against the owners of these factories and the people who employed them. The pandemic left a lot of people unemployed and these children had no other option than working at such a young age to earn a living. We need to work towards the betterment of the children, encourage them to study and focus on their education instead of working as labourers as we move towards 2021 and put an end to child labor.
As the pandemic hit, the child-marriage is one of the issues which has increased and this year alone 74 child marriages were stopped in Tamil Nadu. The child-line received over 400 complaints, rescued around 50 children and stopped 74 child-marriages. The district welfare children committee also received over 30 cases of missing children, children who ran away and cases of sexual abuse. The incidents of child marriages were on the high this year due to the pandemic along with other issues. The increasing crimes against the girls is a proof that the girls have been the most affected in the pandemic and we as a society clearly needs to take action against the injustice, against these crimes and make our country a better place for them to live in the coming years.
The implementation of lockdown had forced many families into poverty and parents being unemployed, due to which, there was a rise in the child labourers in the country as they had no other means to earn a living. The rescued kids were minors and accepted that they were travelling to Gujarat for work and were later handed over to the Child Welfare Committee. The head constable said that it was easier to track down these kids as they were travelling alone and it becomes difficult to track down those who travel with their parents. With most of the rescues taking place at the Udaipur-Ahmedabad highway, the year 2020 had around 700 cases of child labor. With the children stepping in to help their families earn a living and giving up their education, our country is at a huge risk and this needs to be changes as no child should be deprived of basic education