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Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi calls for fighting intolerance

New Delhi(The Hindu): Child rights activist and Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi on Tuesday called for fighting against growing intolerance in the society, along with apathy and fear, to realise the dream of making India a child-friendly country. Describing the three factors as the biggest threats to society, Mr. Satyarthi said they were linked to the trampling of children’s rights.

Delivering the 21st Justice Sunanda Bhandare memorial lecture at the India International Centre here, Mr. Satyarthi said moral deficit in all walks of life had made manifested in crimes against innocent children, who were subjected to torture, exploitation, sexual abuse, servitude and forced labour.

Recalling several important stages during his 35-year-old struggle to secure children’s rights, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 2014, affirmed that the current geopolitics and international transactions had helped bring these issues to the front. This had assisted activists like him in building pressure on governments to take positive steps and sign global conventions, he added.

Mr. Satyarthi said the sustained campaigns had forced the United Nations and International Labour Organisation to accord priority to children’s rights in their agenda during the past decade.

As a result, the number of child labourers around the world had decreased from 268 million in 2000 to 168 million in 2015, while the number of out-of-school children came down from 130 million to 59 million.

According to statistics from the government, finalised after sample surveys, there are 43 lakh children working full time across India at present.

The Nobel laureate, in his hour-long lecture, called upon the society to exert pressure on the government to make greater investments on children as an asset, while noting that 41 per cent of the country’s population at present comprises persons below 18 years of age.

In contrast, the budgetary expenditure on children is an abysmal four per cent.

Expressing concern over increasing incidents of crime against young children, Mr. Satyarthi cited the figures of the National Crime Records Bureau stating that 8,900 cases were registered under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, last year. However, only one per cent of them resulted in conviction, he said.

Mr. Satyarthi also sought the help of lawyers and judges in setting the situation right, while pointing out that the Constitution makers had a vision for judicial safeguard of children’s rights.

“It is a painful reality that children today are the worst victims of all ills, ranging from poverty and servitude to social discrimination and violence,” he said. Supreme Court Judge, Justice T.S. Thakur, and Delhi High Court Chief Justice G. Rohini also addressed the gathering. Former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court, Leila Seth, and a galaxy of jurists and lawyers were among those present.

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