Declare drought a national emergency: Kailash Satyarthi

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New Delhi, May 3 (IANS) Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately declare drought as a “national emergency” in view of the rising numbers of children in rural areas affected and exploited due to drought.

Stating that over 164 million children were affected by the “severe drought situation”, Satyarthi said the drought across 10 states has led to rampant child marriage, child labour, abduction and trafficking of children.

“On May 1, a 12-year-old girl named Madhu and her eight-year-old brother Ashok died of dehydration in Lingam village of Telangana. Their mother, who went to fetch some water, was later found unconscious in the forest with an empty plastic bottle,” Satyarthi said addressing a conference ‘Drought Crisis and Children’ here.

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He narrated other such ordeals, stating that people from areas under the grip of drought in Telangana, Maharashtra and Karnataka are leaving their children in temples.

“In Latur, Maharashtra, a mother ‘donated’ her daughter to a temple to become devadasi. Parents, with nothing to feed to their children are taking such steps to save their children being forced into prostitution.”

He said that of 336 million people (government figures) affected by the drought, 40 percent are children, that has led to 22 percent school dropouts.

“This is the situation by the first week of May. If we are waiting for a report after two or three months, it would be too late. This is not good for a country that aspires to become an economic power,” Satyarthi said.

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Voicing concern that the government is not giving ample time to the issue of drought, Sathyarthi said that at least one dedicated session of parliament should be on drought.

“Unfortunately there is no assessment, monitoring or preemptive measures taken to focus on the situation of children in drought,” he said.

In a letter to the prime minister, Satyarthi has urged to route the unspent Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund worth Rs.10,000 crore for drought relief. He has also demanded to declare drought as a national emergency and to control the exploitation of children due to drought.

“Owing to this drought and the ongoing water crisis, children are becoming increasingly vulnerable,” Satyarthi said in a letter to Modi that was released to the media here.

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“Reports of children being forced into child labour, trafficking, child marriage and the Devadasi system are coming to light,” he added.

Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan put the figures of missing children in the country at 35,873, those abducted at 22,014 and those forced into child labour at 74,84,416.

“Hope the prime minister listens to the ‘Mann ki Baat’ of these 16.3 crore children,” Satyarthi said.

He said the figures he had produced were based on government records. He said the figures could be under-reported.



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