India's children victims of 'tyranny of indifference': Justice Gogoi

NEW DELHI: Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Sunday expressed serious concern over the "concern-deficit" reflected in policy and legislation, and stressed the need to ensure that children got an environment in which they could realise their full potential.
Speaking at a function to release 'Every Child Matters', a book authored by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, Justice Gogoi said children in India were victims of "tyranny of indifference," and contradicted Satyarthi who said India's laws against child labour were the best in the world.
"The 2016 Amendment to the Child Labour Act, for example, is a mirage, to say the least. The idea of the amendment was to make the Child Labour law more stringent, so as to realise the mandate of the Right to Education Act, 2009, i.e, a child in the age group of six to 14 be enabled to receive elementary education.
"Now, to expect this age to be raised to 18 years will be like chasing rainbows. But is it not a disservice when the amendment formalises employment of children up to 14 years in "family enterprise," which can be any vocation as long as it is not one of the three prohibited occupations," Justice Gogoi said, pointing out that earlier the list of prohibited categories stood at 83.
The law penalises employment of adolescents between 14 and 18 years only in three occupations, he added.
"The law was inadequate, to begin with, now it is inimical too," Justice Gogoi said at the function, also attended by several foreign diplomats.
The judge said, "The tyranny of indifference has been exerted not only by those that are at the helm of affairs, but by the society in general just as much. While the former acts wrongly or fails to act, the latter fails to react."
Noting that 40 per cent of India's population was below the age of 18, Justice Gogoi said this demographic dividend can become a demographic disaster if children are not given proper environment and their rights are not protected and ensured.
"We talk about imposing GDP figures; we talk about being the new order. We are a very proud nation and we make no bones about it. Achievements must be celebrated, wherever due. But what may need a revisit is the perception of what 'achievement' is.
"In the strange race to the top, unfortunately, we have constricted its connotation and context to not wholly acceptable indicators. Besides, our evaluation standards are not all-inclusive. Value-based growth like social progress, equal opportunities for growth in all classes and holistic human development continue to be neglected, especially, in developing world like ours where priorities are focused on being the brightest spot," he said.
"What use are these roaring figures, if their apparent success does not translate into the well-being of those who should be its doubtless and deserving beneficiaries. Can we really afford to be this one dimensional?" Justice Gogoi asked.
Next Story
Share it