Vice-President of India, M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday called for a well-planned collective action to ensure adequate nutrition and a positive caring environment for child development in order to take full advantage of demographic dividend.

“Child development should be the foundation of our development architecture,” he said while releasing The State of Young Child in India report, a comprehensive account of the challenges related to early child development in India, prepared by Mobile Creches and published by Routledge an imprint of Taylor & Francis Group.

Taylor & Francis Group, Bernard van Leer Foundation, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, Tata Trusts, HCL Foundation, and NCML, were the collaborators for the release of the inaugural issue of the above report.

Lauding the efforts in preparing the report, Naidu stated in the online event, that such reports would help in policy formulation by developing a greater understanding of the shortcomings and urgent needs of the children.

Poor nutrition hampers physical as well as intellectual development of children. It will would make them vulnerable to illness and affect their performance in school. “We need to understand the crucial importance of this aspect of national development and take effective steps to ensure all children have a healthy start to their lives”, he added.

Childcare concerns

Of the 159 million children aged below 6 years in India, 21 per cent is undernourished, 36 per cent is underweight and 38 per cent of children do not receive full immunisation, according to the report.

“These figures underline the crucial importance to invest in early childhood for realising the full potential in later years”, he stated.

The Vice President said India has made considerable progress over the years in child welfare. While the Government of India has introduced several comprehensive policies and flagship programmes such as Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP), among others for Early Childhood Development, the need of the hour is to implement them effectively through proper coordination among various ministries.

The report release was followed by a panel discussion on “A Better Future for India's Young Children: Beyond the Pandemic.”

Expert panel

Panelists included Pronab Sen, Former Chief Statistician of India; N Ram, former Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu; Uma Mahadevan, Principal Secretary, Panchayati Raj Department, Government of Karnataka; Anu Garg, Principal Secretary, Women and Child Development, Government of Odisha; Yasmin Ali Haque, Representative, UNICEF India; and Vimala Ramachandran, Researcher, Education Specialist, and author of Technical Background Paper for the Report.

The members discussed the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on poor and marginalised families and their children and the need for all stakeholders to come together to help them.