On july 25, three children, all below age ten, were found dead of starvation in a one-room shanty in the heart of Delhi. Autopsies revealed they hadn’t eaten for three days. A few days earlier the media was awash with reports of sexual abuse of orphaned and abandoned children in government shelters in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous states.
These tragedies are being played out in a professedly socialist country dominated by the Government of India which will spend Rs.5.08 lakh crore on establishment expenses, i.e, to pay for the lavish bungalows, motorcades, private aircraft, telephone, travel, subsidised food and thousand other perquisites that the neta-babu brotherhood is heir to.
As often reiterated in these columns, there’s a deep malaise within our society shaped by this uniquely corrupt and self-centred brotherhood, which has buried all sentiments such as empathy, compassion and care for the weak and poor majority under a mountain of red tape and paper-work, all the while paying lip service to socialism. In particular, official indifference to the health, happiness and education of vulnerable children is shocking and arguably unmatched by any other 21st century nation state.
For instance, it’s well-documented in several annual Human Development Index (HDI) reports of UNDP that 48 percent of India’s children under five years of age, i.e, 82 million children countrywide, suffer severe malnutrition which has stunted millions of them. Despite this, the country’s 1.4 million anganwadis — early childhood care and education centres for pre-primary children and lactating mothers established by the Central government in 1975 — accommodate only 50 percent of India’s 164 million children in the 0-5 age group, and government expenditure (Centre plus states) on public health has been static at a miserable 1.4 percent of GDP for decades.
Moreover, even if they survive their early years, India’s children get a raw deal. The vast majority of the world’s largest child population (480 million) receives rock-bottom primary education in the country’s 1.20 million government schools. Annual expenditure (Centre plus states) on public education has averaged a mere 3.5 percent of GDP for the past 70 years, notwithstanding several high-powered Central government commissions recommending at least 6 percent.
Post-independence India’s 250 million-strong middle class which has bypassed the public health systems and is heavily dependent on private medical care and schools, is also to blame for the pathetic condition of the country’s children and youth. And latterly, this subsidies-grabbing middle class is set to destroy the country’s private K-12 education system by inviting government interference in the administration of private schools, a foolish quest to avail first world school education at third world prices.