Towards conceptualizing child wellbeing in India: The need for a paradigm shift
Child Indicator Research , Volume 3 - Issue 3 p. 385- 408
Globally, there is a vast array of social indicators, many of these specifically oriented to the lives, experience and needs of children. This approach is much more advanced in developed economies and rich countries, where the focus has widened and shifted progressively towards a full recognition of the nonmonetary dimensions of child wellbeing. At present, there would appear to be a propitious academic, activist and policy conjuncture for the widening of the discourse on child deprivation in India. This environment is created partly by the emerging reporting requirements and exhortations of the international development regime. But it is also fuelled by dissatisfaction over the inability of the existing methodologies, dominated by the reductionist monetary poverty line approach, to provide a meaningful intellectual or operational frame for contending with issues of child wellbeing in a holistic manner. The basic argument of this paper is that a double paradigm shift is urgently necessary: from mainstream approaches which tend to focus overwhelmingly on the material poverty and deprivation experienced by some children, deemed by definition to be those in households-in-poverty, to one that widens the field of vision to include both material and non-material dimensions of wellbeing of all children. Clearly, fresh epistemological and methodological challenges will have to be met with innovative and creative responses. It is time for India to catch up with best practices in rich countries, and given the impressive dimensions of India's academic and professional infrastructure, this should not be an unrealistic goal.