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Report No. 259

1.6 Despite these alarming figures, there is no clear legal articulation of the entitlements of these young children. The present legal framework remains wanting and weak as far as ECD is concerned, even though Article 45 of the Constitution directs that "the State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years."

1.7 It has been more than two and a half decades since India signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, but the idea of justiciable rights for children, especially young children, has yet not taken shape. Until now, the State has addressed the needs of children through a fragmented approach based on targeted interventions, even though the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), conceptualized in 1972, had kept the integrated needs of children in mind and was designed as a programme to provide health, nutrition and early childhood care and education. Some of the current policies concerning young children are:

National Nutrition Policy, 1993, National Plan of Action for Children, 2005, National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy of 2013, and the National Policy for Children, 2013. These are undoubtedly well-intentioned and relevant policies/schemes, but being politico-executive initiatives they lack the status of law and don't create any justiciable rights in favour of beneficiaries. They only articulate promises.

1.8 Keeping in view the aforesaid, and recognizing the importance and relevance of ECD from the perspective of national and human resource development, the Commission has suo-moto undertaken the present study, 'Early Childhood Development and Legal Entitlements'.

The Commission feels that during a time when the world is debating the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals5, which include the guarantee of early childhood development6, the time is ripe to position the rights of young children within the development agenda and create appropriate legal entitlements with respect to ECD. It is hoped that suggestions and recommendations resulting from this study will go a long way in securing the constitutional objective of ensuring a healthy early childhood resulting into creating a rich national human resources.


6 Proposed Goals and Targets - Target 3a. All children under the age of 5 reach their developmental potential through access to quality early childhood development programs and policies.

Target 3b. All girls and boys receive quality primary and secondary education that focuses on learning outcomes and on reducing the dropout rate to zero.

Target 4c. Prevent and eliminate violence against individuals, especially women and children.

Target 5b. End preventable deaths by reducing child mortality to [20] or fewer deaths per 1000 births, maternal mortality to [40] or fewer deaths per 100,000 live births, and mortality under 70 years of age from non-communicable diseases by at least 30 percent compared with the level in 2015.

1.9 The Report consists of seven Chapters. While Chapter I introduces the issue at hand, Chapter II captures various International Conventions, Treaties and Declarations that concern the issue of ECD. Chapter III focuses on the constitutional context and its vision with regard to children including children below six years. Attempt has been made in Chapter IV to briefly examine the scope and nature of various policies and schemes in existence that deal with different nuances involved in ECD.

This Report makes an attempt to suggest as to what kind of legal measures and binding entitlements be created dealing with ECD especially in respect of 'Health and Nutrition' and 'Care and Education' in Chapter V and VI, respectively. Towards the end, Chapter VII incorporates some of the suggestions and recommendations emerging from the Study. The Commission believes that acting on these suggestions would not only serve the cause of developing young children but would also go a long way in developing the nation's human capital.

1.10 In order to prepare this report, the Commission formed a sub-Committee under the Chairmanship of Prof. (Dr.) Mool Chand Sharma, Full Time Member of the Commission and comprising: Ms. Archana Mishra, Dr. Arun Sagar and Ms. Mandavi Jayakar from Jindal Global Law School; Dr. Bharti Kumar, Ms. Neha Singhal and Dr. Sophy K.J. from National Law University, Delhi; Ms. Sudeshna Sengupta, Ms. Devika Singh and Ms. Nikita Agarwal from Alliance for Right to Early Childhood Development.

1.11 Thereafter, upon detailed deliberations and discussions, the Commission has given shape to the present Report.

Early Childhood Development and Legal Entitlements Back

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