[dropcap]G[/dropcap]lobally, Children’s welfare is a biggest challenge. With changing times, parents, society, law and norms all conflict with each other. And children remain confused as they face identity crisis. Not all Indian parents, in our own country and abroad, bring up their children the way they should be brought up. What is the best way to bring up children is a matter of endless debate. Norway’s claim that the mother did not care for her two children properly, according to Norwegian rules might be wrong, but as a mother, she too did the best she could and the children were being brought up well. Why should the authority single out the Indian couple for child neglect when thousands of immigrants from Asian countries including Indians, Sri Lankans and Pakistanis work there and raise families? Norway can have its own laws but it must learn to respect the culture and practices of other countries. The least the Norwegian authorities could have done, if they found that the Bhattacharya children were not being properly cared for, was to ask the couple to leave the country with their kids. They are certainly not competent to determine what an Indian child’s needs are.
In the recent past, the Norway-based young Indian couple hit headlines for all the wrong reasons. The couple probably lacked the art of child-rearing as according to Norwegian rules and this particular incident may help in creating better awareness. If you look at the wider perspective, has there been anything more disgraceful, unkind and insensible than the Norway kid’s case? Rules are rigid and their enforcement is strict in some countries. The dilemma of Indians who go to a foreign country, temporarily or permanently, is to be understood in the right context with reference to the disagreement of child custody in Norway. Parents need to follow the law of the land for child upbringing and cannot say this never happens in their country. I am not saying that we should abandon our traditions while living overseas. Indian and Norwegian ways of rearing children may differ but that does not mean the Bhattacharya kids were not subjected to neglect. How can one explain the erratic (violent) behaviour of the older child in a play-school? We have no right to criticise Norway when we have the cradle baby scheme here — a reflection of the way we treat our newborn. Second most important thing, who will guarantee the safe future of these children hereafter in India? What about the mental torture that children are going through?
In the West, children are brought up in isolation. But in India, the child is nurtured with love and affection. That is why we find many parents in old-age homes in foreign countries. The Bhattacharyas’ should pack up their bags and return home or go to a country where they can bring up their children the Indian way. On February 15, three weeks later, the ministry of external affairs reached an understanding with the Norwegian authorities arguing that people are not made for rules, rules are made for people.
Actually in India, when it comes to women parents and society, the discussions which take place are about cosmetics, beauty, behaviour at in-laws house and other subjects but most of us are not aware and taught parenting skills required to bring up children. We dump children in unsafe vehicles while sending them to school. We put them in boarding school assuming they are emotionally and physically well taken care of and conferrable. In the rat race of earning money (which is important too), both the parents work and children are unattended most of the time. They don’t get parents by their side when they actually need them. Gradually after certain period children become so independent that they start hating parents nagging over moral watch. Look at the plight of a child; their school bag weighs at least 4 kg. We see parents abusing their children and beating them up in public, yet we do not interfere as we feel parents know what is best for their children. Many parents do not even know how to conduct themselves in front of their children. Let us not hide our lack of parenting skills by saying our way of bringing up the child is the best since we have strong family ties. India has one of the highest rates of female infanticide and child malnourishment in the world. Many parents are unaware that the children too have self respect, ego and their own little reservations. They deserve all respect and attention from you elders. A child in India continues to be in a symbiotic relationship with his or her parents throughout life. While the child is cared for as a baby, parents are looked after in their old age by him/her. This pan-umbilical tie is typical of our tradition and ethos. In the West, on the other hand, given tenuous marriages, the child faces an indifferent parental atmosphere. This is why the state’s concern and care for the child citizen is so comprehensive. We Indians grew up in different culture where we don’t consider it being gay when two boys or two girls walk together… we don’t consider it as child abuse when a dad sleep with his own son or someone sleeps with a young one… it’s the mind… and you guys have filthy minds. The government has taken the custody of the minor Indian children, currently in separate foster homes, to be handed over to their paternal uncle. The ministry summoned Norway’s ambassador to India to express its concern about the delay in handing over the children. The children need to be returned to their Indian parents immediately.
We need to go beyond the Bhattacharyas’ episode. While we ought to be sensitive to our traditional parent-child bonding and its sanctity, we must also look at every child beyond the limited dimension of a family — as an entitled citizen. Our attitude to female foeticide, child labour, girls’ right to nutrition and education must undergo a sea change. Do we have any sensible and functional child welfare expert in our country? We beat our children with impunity, attack them emotionally, and cannot appreciate the child welfare-centric policies of Norway. The suggestion that parents should be counseled is laughable. Parents are adults, capable of taking care of themselves, while children need protection. Forget about Norway and its rule book, but here in our own country need to understand child’s plight cause knowingly and unknowingly, we are doing lots of atrocities to them. When you sow a bitter seed you cannot expect sweetness out of it.
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