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CRY…….Health of the Child in India under threat

March 9, 2012

It is time we made health a fundamental right for children in India.

 On March 8th 2012 I attended a Corporate Social Responsibility Summit organized by CRY (Child Rights and You) in Mumbai.

It was an effort well made, an event well-organized and it brought together some illustrious and well-known experts, corporates, NGOs and communicators to discuss an area that enjoys corporate lip service, provides brands with good opportunities for back slapping and adds a little luster to corporate conversation just when it is in danger of getting stale!

CSR, however, as the day long deliberations showed, is neither a well understood word nor is it a ‘space’ that can be easily defined. While some panelists felt that a lack of definition did not matter and in fact allowed a constituent to  ‘invent/innovate’, others said that unless you knew what you were supposed to do you would end up wasting time and money with no measurable impact.

Health was a recurring theme. But whose responsibility was it? The Government alone? The Government and the corporate sector? We got no firm answers. But the fully engaged audience agreed that the start of this discussion was long overdue. Many of the CSR projects discussed had the health of children as key focus.

Malnutrition was discussed and statistics shared. It is not confined to just the poor. It is present even among the middle and upper middle classes. So it is not the shortage of food but wrong eating habits that create this situation.  India is one of the countries where obesity is growing and malnutrition has risen to alarming proportions. But who should take responsibility for fixing these skews? The Government is more in the regulatory mode and less willing to act as an enabler. The State has repeatedly reneged on its promises of more and better health. Business is willing to take up some of the slack but not unless a business case can be made for this involvement. Nothing wrong with this argument except that intervention is seldom sustained for as long as it is needed, to make a measurable social and demographic impact.

The consensus was that malnutrition in India among children, pregnant and breast feeding mothers can be tackled if companies, NGOs and the State make the resolve to do something that is sustained over the optimum timeframe. In this context Dr. Parasuraman of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences left us with an intriguing thought : Sustainability must not be ‘colonized’ by capitalism.

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From → General Health

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