The 10th Memorial Lecture

Every year, since its inception, the Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation invites an person to deliver a lecture on the subject of women's and human rights. Smt. Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the National Advisory Council and United Progressive Alliance, delivered the Tenth Justice Sunanda Bhandare Memorial Lecture. Smt. Gandhi spoke on ' New Deal for India's Children' at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on November 8, 2004. Hon'ble Shri Justice Shivraj Patil of the Supreme Court on India presided over the lecture.

Taking a grim view of the state of our children that our of a hundred children born, 49% will not be fully immunized against vaccination-preventable diseases, 42% will remain underweight and consequently malnourished, 75% will not complete primary school, 7% will not make it to the first birthday, She cautioned that we have a long way to go before we can claim that we are providing equality of opportunity, dignity and security to all our children. She emphasized on the negative attitude towards girls. "The challenge appears stupendous but that should renew and redouble our commitment" she added. She charted out a five point agenda to meet the stupendous challenges.

1. Enhance the level of public investment in elementary education and to ensure that education cases is used for education alone what was done for elementary education had to be replicated soon in primary health as well.

2. Implement programmes with greater accountability and transparency through Decentralization up to the Panchayat level with sustainable community partnerships.

3. Aggressive public advocate and political activism on behalf of children by political parties, social action groups, media coupled with the necessary changes in law and need to change the mindsets.

4. Remove growing regional disparities in child welfare..

5. Radical changes in the on ?going programmes for child welfare with an accelerated pace with attention to the crucial foundation years of 6-14.

The five point against constitutes an essential frame work which will help us giving our children what we owe them. She also elaborated the need of special attention to girl child who is discriminated from birth to remove the larger injustice that is done to women particularity belonging to the weaker section.

"Above everything else, we bring both compassion and passion into building a new future for our children, a passion that will be driven by a sense of urgency. Poverty is no excuse or an alibi. Determined public action can overcome the handicaps imposed by penury. Our children are our most precious resource. They don't need any more words, any more declarations, any more charters. They need our immediate and undivided attention and action."