The government spends less than one per cent of its total expenditure on child protection and over 170 million children and adolescents continue to live in difficult circumstances in the country, child rights activists said today. "Despite the country making major strides towards improving legal and administrative frameworks to protect and promote child and adolescent rights, total government expenditure on child protection remains low at only .034 per cent," anti-child labour activist Shantha Sinha said in a conference here. Addressing the conference on children's rights organised by Harvard University's FXB Centre and PHFI's Indian Institute of Public Health, she said, "There are 42 million children in the age group of 14-18 years who are out of school and live in exploitative environments lacking financial and personal security.
They are vulnerable to early marriage and gender discrimination. They need support of the state and its services to live a life of dignity and freedom." Dr K Srinath Reddy, President of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) opined that community-based solutions that foster health and nutrition, psychosocial well-being, education and the social reintegration of children and adolescents are the best way to ensure their physical and psychological recovery. Stressing the fact that India needs to ensure that its rapid economic development is equitable and sustainable for all citizens, Dr Theresa Betancourt, Director of the research programme on Children and Global Adversity (RPCGA) at the FXB Centre said the conference aims to further the child and adolescent rights agenda in India by bringing attention to both the successes and failures in the field. In the conference, major challenges that government policies like Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) have faced in addressing the needs of abused, neglected, exploited and abandoned children were discussed upon by the child rights activists.