“How do we know if the government will really listen to us, and commit 9% of the GDP to Education & Health?”
On the eve of Children’s Day, 80 children and representatives from schools and NGOs met to deliberate on this question in New Delhi. The group comprised of activists of the “Nine Is Mine” campaign – an initiative of children, schools, communities and organizations across 15 states of India to ensure that the government commits 9% of the GDP to public expenditure on Health & Education, as promised in the National Common Minimum Program.
Representatives of Holy Child School, St. Columba’s School, Bluebells International, British School, Jaspal Kaur Public School, Carmel Convent – Faridabad, Alcon International School, Guru Harkishan Public School and Childline India Foundation were among those deliberating the nuances of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the provisions of the Union Budget in relation to their effort to popularize and implement their demand for 6% of the GDP to be committed to public expenditure on Education & 3% of the GDP to Health on this day.
Gobinda Naik from ODAAN reminded the Delhi students that in stark contrast to the neat school uniforms that they wore – many children of the “Other India”, including himself and his friends from Khandhamal district, Orissa – have never seen the inside of a school, or even held a pencil in their hand! He hoped that through this effort, children from across the country can speak in one voice to enable every child to enjoy health and education as a right.
Deepak Xavier from the Centre for Budget & Governance Accountability (CBGA) reinforced the gaping divide in the opportunities for survival and development among children of India in his presentation to the group. He quoted the Human Development Report 2006 which indicates that only 4 out of 10 enrolled children in India complete Class X, and nearly 6 of 100 children in the country do not survive beyond the age of 1. India ranks 126th out of 177 countries on the Human Development Index, and its public expenditure on health is even less than Sierra Leone and Niger who have the lowest rank on the Human Development Index.
The need to end the social “apartheid” in access to Education and Health was emphasized by other solidarity speakers who were present on the occasion. The special needs of girl children, children with disabilities and those from dalit and adivasi communities was also stressed.
Henri Valot from the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) spoke of the efforts being undertaken across countries to end Poverty & Social Exclusion. He cited the efforts of a 17-year old of Indian origin, Anish Kattukaran – who has single handedly mobilized people and resources to initiate the Make Poverty History campaign in the Emirates – as an example of the will and determination of young people to enable social change.
“Nine Is Mine should be the call of not only children, but of all people”, said another participant thereby setting the stage for the Release of the “Nine Is Mine” Declaration, which is to be taken to 15 states of India through the ‘Wada Na Todo Abhiyan’ to enable 100,000 children and their supporters to petition the Prime Minister to keep his promise to commit 9% of the GDP to public expenditure on Health & Education.
For more information visit http://www.wadanatodo.net/