Children’s Day – Remembering Chacha Nehru and his indispensable legacy

‘Chacha Nehru’ as he is fondly called held a special place for children in his heart


Happy Children’s Day to all! Every year, as a tribute to the first Prime Minister of India – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India celebrates Children’s Day or Bal Diwas on November 14. Celebrations date back to 1956 and the day is observed to increase awareness about child rights and the education of children. Jawaharlal Nehru or ‘Chacha Nehru’ as he was fondly called is remembered for having said, “The children of today will make the India of tomorrow. The way we bring them up will determine the future of the country.”

Worldwide, Children’s Day is celebrated on November 20 in keeping with the date set by the United Nations. In India, the day is a commemoration to Nehru who advocated for child rights and the right to education, overseeing the set-up of India’s publicly funded government school system and the Indian Institutes of Management. He also established the Children’s Film Society India in 1955 to create indigenous cinema solely for kids.

Nehru had pushed for a Special Act through which the first IIT was set up in Kharagpur, West Bengal, in May, 1950. Addressing the first convocation ceremony of the institution, Nehru had said, “Here in the place of that Hijli Detention Camp stands the fine monument of India, representing India’s urges, India’s future in the making. This picture seems to me symbolical of the changes that are coming to India.”

Chacha Nehru

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Nehru’s affection for children could be witnessed by one and all. At public gatherings, he would throw his marigold garlands to them. He would sit cross-legged on the floor to listen to happenings at their school or tales their grandmothers had told them. Jawaharlal often wore a red rose on his jacket. Some people say he began to do so from the day that a child pinned one on him.

Nehru wrote many books that still hold popularity worldwide. Among these, Letters from a Father to his Daughter and Glimpses of World History have become popular children’s classics because any child can respond to their warm, affectionate tone and spontaneous style. When ten-year-old Indira was at Mussoorie in the Himalayas, he began to write her a series of letters from Allahabad in 1928. In Letters from a Father to his Daughter, he wrote of when there were no men or women on an earth that was too hot for human life, of the rocks and fossils that reveal these times. Before the written word, rocks and mountains, seas, stars, rivers and deserts were the book of nature.

Glimpses of World History is a compilation of letters written in different circumstances, begun while he was in Central Prison, Naini in 1930. It is a vast tome of 1155 pages, not really a book to be read in one sitting but to be taken a few chapters at a time. While Letters… is more impersonal, with the focus on sharing information, in Glimpses… an intimate note creeps in with accounts of life in jail, his hopes and aspirations for the country he loves, his political philosophy and most poignant, his anxieties about his family.

Chacha Nehru

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How child rights have fostered in India since 1956

The Constitution of India has several provisions to secure and safeguard a child’s rights. India still has many underprivileged children who lack basic means to food and education, India has come a long way in protecting their rights but still has a long way to go to ensure that the benefits of India’s development reaches every child who dreams of a better tomorrow.

Constitutional Guarantees that are meant specifically for children include:

  • Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 year age group   (Article 21 A)
  • Right to be protected from any hazardous employment till the age of 14 years (Article 24)
  • Right to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter occupations unsuited to their age or strength (Article 39(e))
  • Right to equal opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and guaranteed protection of childhood and youth against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment (Article 39 (f))
  • Right to early childhood care and education to all children until they complete the age of six years (Article 45)

Nehru’s first five year plan, which he presented as the Prime Minister of Independent India addressed issues of children’s health and reducing infant mortality. Today, keeping in mind his Nehruvian philosophy, we hope that the dignity of the future of the country, the children of India who are embattling the problems of child labour and violence is restored and that they are empowered with education to bloom and achieve their full potential.


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