Child Development in India: Government Schemes and Initiatives

Government Initiatives for Development of Children in India

National Policy on Children

  • India is home to the largest child population in the world. Declaring its children as the nation’s “supremely important asset” in the National Policy for Children, 1974, the Government of India reiterated its commitment to secure the rights of its children by ratifying related international conventions and treaties.
  • The National Charter for Children, 2003 adopted on 9th February 2004, underlined the intent to secure for every child, its inherent right to be a child and enjoy a healthy and happy childhood, to address the root causes that negate the healthy growth and development of children, and to awaken the conscience of the community in the wider societal context to protect children from all forms of abuse, while strengthening the family, society and the Nation.
  • To affirm the Government’s commitment to the rights based approach in addressing the continuing and emerging challenges in the situation of children, the Government of India adopted the National Policy for Children, 2013.
  • The policy affirmed that survival, health, nutrition, development, education, protection and participation are the undeniable rights of every child and are the key priorities of the policy.
  • The policy emphasised that the right to life, survival, health and nutrition is an inalienable right of every child and will receive the highest priority.

National Policy on Early Childhood care and Education

  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development has formulated the National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) policy and the same has been notified in October 2013.
  • The policy lays down the way forward for a comprehensive approach towards ensuring a sound foundation for survival, growth and development of child with focus on care and early learning of every child.
  • It recognises the synergistic and interdependent relationship between the health, nutrition, psycho-social and emotional needs of the child.
  • In view of the furtherance of the objectives of the national ECCE policy the national ECCE curriculum framework, quality standards for ECCE and Age Appropriate Child Assessment Cards have been formulated and circulated to all states and UTs.

Integrated Child Development Services

  • The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme is one of the flagship programmes of the Government of India and represents one of the world’s largest programmes for Early Childhood Development.
  • The beneficiaries under the Scheme are children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • This Scheme has improved over the years and restructured to address the emerging issues and demands of the time, and has evolved as the foremost tool of to break the vicious circle of child morbidity and mortality along with other objectives.

The objectives of the Scheme are:

  1. To improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age-group 0-6 years;
  2. To lay the foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the child;
  3. To reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropout;
  4. To achieve effective co-ordination of policy and implementation amongst the various departments to promote child development; and
  5. To enhance the capability of the mother to look after the normal health and nutritional needs of the child through proper nutrition and health education.

National Health Mission

  • The child health programme under the National Health Mission (NHM) comprehensively integrates interventions that improve child survival and addresses factors contributing to infant and under-five mortality.
  • It is now well recognised that child survival cannot be addressed in isolation as it is intricately linked to the health of the mother, which is further determined by her health and development as an adolescent. Therefore, the concept of ‘Continuum of Care’, that emphasises on care during critical life stages in order to improve child survival, is being followed under the national programme.
  • Another dimension of this approach is to ensure that critical services are made available at home, through community outreach and through health facilities at various levels (primary, first referral units, tertiary health care facilities).
  • The new born and child health are now the two key pillars of the Reproductive, Maternal, New born, Child and Adolescent health (RMNCH+A) strategic approach, 2013.


Himanshu Arora
Doctoral Scholar in Economics & Senior Research Fellow, CDS, Jawaharlal Nehru University
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