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Government came out with a comprehensive 'Nation Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy, 2013'

The National ECCE Policy, 2013, defines early childhood as 'the formative stage of the first six years of life'. According to the globally and nationally held view, the 'Right to Early Childhood Development (ECD)' means the right of the child to survival, growth and holistic development, and the right to inputs that will make such development possible - care, love, nurturing, protection, health, nutrition, stimulation, play and learning.

As per the 2011 Census, India has 158.7 million children in the age group of 0-6 years, comprising about 16% of the total Indian population. In the period 2008-2013, 43% of India's children under 5 were underweight and 48% had stunted growth.

According to a World Bank Report published in 2013, the mortality rate of children under 5 years of age is 53 per 1000 live births  and according to a 2013 UNICEF Report, more than 60 million children are stunted. Less than half the women in the country are provided any form of support during their pregnancies, deliveries and lactation, which has a significant impact on a child's health and growth during the early part of its life. Moreover, a quarter or less of children in India receive adequate health care. 1.6 Despite these alarming figures, there is no clear legal articulation of the entitlements of these young children. The present legal framework remains wanting and weak as far as ECD is concerned, even though Article 45 of the Constitution directs that “the State shall endeavor to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years."

The Commission feels that during a time when the world is debating the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals 5, which include the guarantee of early childhood development6, the time is ripe to position the rights of young children within the development agenda and create appropriate legal entitlements with respect to ECD.

It is suggested that, as per the recommendation of the NCRWC, a new Article 24A be inserted to Part III of the Constitution to ensure that the child's right to basic care and assistance becomes an enforceable right. The Article should read as follows: "24A. Every child shall have the right to care and assistance in basic needs and protection from all forms of neglect, harm and exploitation".

Various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were used to deal with sexual offences against children as the law did not make a distinction between an adult and a child. POCSO deals with sexual offences against persons below 18, who are deemed as children. POCSO provides definitions of "penetrative sexual assault", "sexual assault" and "sexual harassment" - the offence is considered graver if it is committed by a police officer, public servant, any member of the staff at a remand home, protection or observation home, jail, hospital or educational institution, or by a member of the armed or security forces. POCSO provides for relief and rehabilitation as soon as the complaint is made to the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police, who are required to make immediate arrangements for care and protection. The intent to commit an offence, as defined under POCSO, is also punishable, besides abetment of sexual abuse against a child. Special emphasis has been placed on ensuring the speedy disposal of trials in special children’s courts as well as following of special procedures to keep the accused away from the child at the time of testifying.

Despite POCSO enjoining the Central and State governments to take measures for giving wide publicity through the media - television, radio and print - and imparting periodic training to all stakeholders on matters relating to implementation of provisions, the Act is relatively unknown. The passing of the salutary law is more than significant for a variety of reasons. It defines exclusively the crime of sexual offences against children and fulfils the mandatory obligations of India as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, acceded to in 1992.
 

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