Guwahati: Being home to 243 million individuals aged 10-19 years, India has the largest population of youths in the world, Assam governor J B Patnaik said, while releasing the UNICEF report at the Raj Bhavan here on Saturday.

The UNICEF report on `The State of the World's Children' stated that the country's adolescents formed 20 per cent of the world's 1.2 billion adolescents.

Stating nine out of ten among the 1.2 billion adolescents live in the developing world, Patnaik said, Assam was home to an estimated 6.5 million adolescents, comprising 21.3 per cent of the state's population.

"In this `youthful, human resource' lies the promise and potential of becoming a healthy, strong and egalitarian society. This, however, comes with the onerous responsibility on the part of the state and civil society actors, including parents and guardians, to nurture and harness the energy and potential of these adolescents", he said.

Being aware of the needs to meet the challenges of adolescents, the governor said, “India had put in place the NRHM, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Mission, integrated Child Development Scheme, Integrated Child Development Scheme, Total Sanitation Programme and National AIDS Control Programme.”

In Assam, a Commission for protection of Child Rights, the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 and Integrated Child Development Scheme were significant, he added.

Besides facing the additional challenge of anaemia, Patnaik pointed out that the adolescent girls being from poor and marginalised communities were vulnerable to child marriage, early pregnancies, ill health, trafficking, HIV-AIDS, abuse and violence.

According to the government, reported NFHS-3 data (2005-06), he said, almost 16.8 per cent girls aged 15-19 years were already mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey, while 38.6 per cent women aged 20-24 years were married before 18 years of age.

Pointing out "we are an ancient society devoted to the welfare of the child", the governor said, "according to an old adage a child upto five year of age should be reared with great care and affection, followed by corrective measures for ten years more so that the child does not go astray. And when the child attains the age of 15, he or she should be treated as equal and as a friend in society".

Jayanti Patnaik, the governor's wife and the first chairperson of the National Women's Commission as well as four time MP, also spoke on the occasion.