India owes a debt to the future. One that no one could foresee. That is because the Covid-19 pandemic, unbeknownst to us, has opened up a new frontier. One that science and medical wisdom had assumed was secure. So while our energies were devoted to fighting the emergency that hit us like a tsunami, where every facet of normal life and economy was imperilled, we tended to overlook the fact that it was leaving in our midst a whole generation of the most innocent victims: children. It is only now, with the new viral strains affecting children widely, that our attention has turned to them. And it is imperative that we gauge the extent of the threat that India faces, along with the rest of the world, and address it not just adequately, but creatively, along all axes of concern. So that we turn this crisis into an opportunity where real value can be created.
Every war opens up multiple fronts, and our defences must be mounted on all of them. When we regard the special needs of children vis-à-vis the pandemic, the concerns that grab our attention right now occupy a complex range. There are questions of basic health, hygiene and immunity. There is the question of a total and unprecedented disruption of normal growing-up years, hitherto known to humanity only during times of war, and even then not in such pervasive, and perverse, ways. And flowing from the latter, we see consequences in mental health as cases of depression among the young rise at an exponential rate. Besides, of course, the more obvious question we have all seen: education being thrown out of gear. How do we cross this difficult passage in our nation’s life?
We must turn to science, we must turn to the best wisdom and expertise that we possess, we must turn to society itself—all of us are implicated in this. If humanity’s war against the SARS-Cov-2 virus has to be fought—and won—we must offer a complete guarantee to the future. I congratulate Outlook and Reckitt for conceptualising this project where the best domain experts—in paediatrics, pedagogy, mental health, fitness and nutrition—have offered us their wisdom. It fills a vital gap. The best part of all this is that the children are speaking to us too—through text and image. We need to create an aware young citizenry, and I am heartened by the signs of vitality I see amidst this crisis. Together, we shall overcome.