How to make India a safer place for children: Care about orphans like we care about our cows

It's heartening to see that our political leaders, when not delaying aircraft or holding up traffic, have a list of priorities — things they believe will score them brownie points with the public.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath won this week's award for the height of nonsense, when he announced the Taj Mahal is not intrinsic to Indian culture and is more in the realm of gifts given to foreigners through the centuries.

This convoluted explanation of absolutely no relevance to governance is about as Hindutva as it can get; it's also another lumpy bead in the chain of "say something pointless or outrageous for publicity" rule, but the media will tamely give it by the barrel, a development that in recent times has reached ridiculous levels.

Over 250,000 children are said to have gone 'missing' in India between 2012 and 2017. Reuters representational image

Over 250,000 children are said to have gone 'missing' in India between 2012 and 2017. Reuters representational image

Who in Delhi will now want to lop off the Qutub Minar? And it isn't dangerous, because these leaders say something stupid to get applause but the media willingly accords them them space and airtime, and a non-issue gains traction. Perhaps all our ministers have "misadvisers" who keep coming up with nutty ideas and statements which they feel will appeal to the masses.

A close runner-up this week is Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who called for gaurakshaks to provide shelter and comfort to abandoned cows. He sees this as a more edifying option than lynching or beating up people who transport cows, dead or alive. And it is admittedly a more poignant thought than attacking a marble edifice. There is nothing wrong in being kind to animals, and if that is your thing, go for it. But in a country where 20 million children are orphans, several of them abandoned in every sense of the word, shouldn't they deserve more attention than the cows? That the girls among them are always at risk of being trafficked only adds to the horror.

And yet, one never comes across a story where anyone has stripped and beaten people engaged in human slavery and sexual exploitation. Child abandonment is a punishable offence under Section 317 of the Indian Penal Code, but it never becomes an issue. Neither the Nitish Kumar or Yogi Adityanath brand of leaders would consider this a subject for a speech to the vote bank, and more's the pity.

If Nitish had said he would simultaneously look into the matter of abandoned children and give this issue the same concern, it would have been laudable, especially considering Bihar has among the worst adoption statistics for deserted children.

Although NGOs dismiss the official figure of 12 million child labourers as merely a fragment of the actual 60 million kids who are being exploited in the country and denied basic rights, that's not really a vote grabbing issue. After all, small scale industries like fireworks manufacturing, carpet weaving, matchstick making, etc would implode if the children were not enslaved and made to work 15 hours a day for some gruel. But so long as our cows are comfortable, our consciences are squeaky clean.

Chew on this.

Updated Date: Jun 17, 2017 12:55 PM

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