While legislators asked more child-related questions in the Assembly and the Council during 2007 than in the previous years, the responses from the Government to these questions left much to be desired. There was a lack of focus, care and commitment in the responses and even in the questions raised by the legislators.
That, in a nutshell, is the analysis of the Question Hour of Karnataka Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council done by CRT (Child Rights Trust), an NGO, as part of the initiative mooted and supported by UNICEF, Hyderabad on the topic “Are there children in the Vidhana Soudha?” The report was released in Banglaore on December 14 by freedom fighter H.S. Doreswamy, Karnataka Media Academy Chairman V.N. Subba Rao, UNICEF representatives Mr. Michel Saint-Lot and CRT Trustee Mrs. Padmini.
While releasing the study report, Mr. Doreswamy, stressed that legislators need to carry out disciplined study of various issues, collect statistics and correlate the existing situation with the past and future possibilities and strive towards upholding the rights of the children. “Merely raising a popular issue in the floor of the house is not an end in itself. The issue should be followed-up till it reaches a logical end either in the form of a programme, project, policy or a budgetary allocation and then its proper implementation,” he said.
Giving a vivid picture of the situation in Karnataka with respect to child development indicators and stressing the need for urgent intervention Mr. Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF Representative for Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, made a fervent appeal to all legislators present to put aside politics when it came to children’s issues. Strongly recommending a “Pact for children in 2008 elections” cutting across party lines, he also reminded the legislators of the commitments made by the State Government in the SPAC-State Plan of Action for Children 2003-10.
Speaking on the occasion after releasing the research findings, Mr.V.N.Subba Rao, Chairman of Karnataka Media Academy, also appealed to the legislators to pay attention to the problems of children in the changing times and particularly in the era of globalization, where the poor and rural masses are getting affected.
Most legislators present on the occasion said that education is the need of the hour and that they would pledge their attention and funds for improving school conditions. They were also inclined towards forming a forum of legislators to address children’s issues.
Of the 224 MLAs, only 39 had asked five or more child-centred questions during 2007 with Chamaraja MLA H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda topping the list with 28 questions, followed by Jamkhandi MLA Siddu Savadi (26), Chamarajanagar MLA Vatal Nagaraj (21) and Belthangadi MLA Prabhakar Bangera (21). Former MLAs G.V. Srirama Reddy, Araga Jnanendra, N.L. Narendra Babu and MLCs Shobha Karandlaje, Prakash Rathod, Vimala Gowda, Manohar Maski and B.R. Gurudev were present.
Mr. Reddy made an impassioned appeal to address two urgent issues — compulsory and free primary education and eradication of poverty. Preceding the launch of the report was a workshop on “Legislators’ commitment to children” where NGO participants from 23 districts felt that although there were several legislations, the legislature and the executive did not show any commitment to enforce them.
The meeting ended with a hope that the election year of 2008 will see a new era of awakened and educated legislators who carry an informed discussion on child related issues in the houses and ensure the child rights are met.