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Census categorises 0-6 year olds as child

Census categorises 0-6 year olds as child, activists seek change

October 23, 2021
Reshma Ravishanker

Citing that many children fail to benefit from several government schemes and privileges with government officials citing that the Census document describes a child as one below 6 years of age, child rights activists have raised an alarm and sought immediate intervention.

In most official Census documents available in the public domain, the common definition of that of a child and the age considered has left many baffled. The document reads thus: “Child Population in regard to Census of India described as the population of children in the age-group 0-6 years.”

Not only are the published documents commonly referring to a child and anyone below the age of six but also the newly released datasheet to be filled during Census 2021 has largely defined a child as someone below 6 while the actual age group is anyone between 0-18 for all official purposes.

Even as defined by the National Policy for Children 2013, the Child Marriage Prohibition Act 2006, The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 – persons below 18 years as considered children.  This is done in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, to which India is a signatory.

The census document’s differential definition between that of a child and children is another reason activists have been confused. Documents refer to those between 0-18 as children while a child is defined as the one between 0-6 years of age.Census categorises 0-6 year olds as child

Vasudeva Sharma, a child rights activist from Bengaluru has also started an online campaign seeking to draw the attention of government authorities towards the issue. “When the first reports of the Census data are given out, the child population announced is that of those below 6. Researchers, policymakers, media organisations tend to assume this as the data for those below 18 and it has a heavy bearing on our policymaking.

“These numbers are etched in the minds of officials who work in women and child development sectors and the education department. To cite an example, during one of our visits to a remote village in Karnataka, we encountered officials who assumed that the marriage of a 13-year-old girl was legal. When confronted, they cited the definition given in Census documents. This is a hindrance to curb child labour, marriages and many atrocities against children,” he said. An online petition in this regard has been initiated on Change.org titled ‘Census of India, in the 2021 Census consider persons up to 18 years as children’ with several child rights activists as signatories.

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