“Is it not true and correct that street children in India are looked down as inhuman and chattel, for a moment forgetting the fact they are also the creation of God Almighty”
Is it a sin or curse upon the street children?
Is there no scope, remedy, solution to tackle this problem?
Street children in India is a socio-legal issue which has assumed greater significance and got coverage in the whole world. It is the right time for all the intellectuals, N.G.O’s and other voluntary organizations to come forward with strong determination, study this problem on humanitarian grounds and render all assistance, guidance to enable them to get away from such miserable life, look for green pastures and lead normal life.
The efforts of U.N.O are laudable and commendable for all the reasons to highlight the sufferings of the poor, helpless and innocent street children in India and the world over. In fact, it is considered as a universal problem thereby attracting the attention of developed nations who are caught up with the problem.
The fundamental rights in Part-III and Directive Principles of State Policy in Part-IV of the Constitution of India provided for the rights of the street children in free India and the duty of the state and central governments to take up welfare measures for the upliftment of them. Such is the importance given to the street children in India.
Street Children and The Society
In order to better understand and appreciate the study on the street children, it is very important and pertinent to know the meaning, definition of the term “Street Children”. It is a term for children experiencing poverty (homelessness) that are living on the streets of a city and selling their body to strive. Street kids and Street youth, the definition of street children is contested, but many practitioners and policymakers use U.N.I.C.E.F (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) concept of boys and girls aged under 18 years old, for whom “The Street” (including unoccupied dwellings and wasteland) has become home and / or their source of livelihood and are inadequately protected or supervised.
Some street children, notably in more developed nations are part of a subcategory called destitute children or thrown away children, who are children those who have been forced to leave home from single parents. Street children are often subject to abuse, neglect, exploitation or the extreme cases, murder by “Clean up squads” that have been hired by local businesses or police. In western societies, such children are treated as homeless children rather than criminals or beggars.
It is evident that street children are not born so but the society is responsible for such a shameful act, as the saying goes “Criminals are not born but made” which is true even in the case of street children. Several instances have come to light where highly educated and affluent family members abandoned children to cover up the dark side of their lives. It is a common sight to find at the Bus Stands, Railway Stations, and Traffic Signals etc. women carrying infants and begging. These days the under passages of the flyovers, metro corridors have become their dwelling places.
Reasons for Street Children to Work and Live
The World Health Organization (W.H.O) notes that every street children has a reason for being on the street and “while some children are lured by to promise of excitement and freedom, the majority are pushed onto the street by desperation and realization that they have nowhere else to go. Moreover, recent studies across a number of countries show that “in all parts of the world, most street children have experienced intra-family violence and come from fragile families located in income poor neighbours”.
Role of Non-Governmental Organisations (N.G. O’s) And Media
In accomplishing the milestones, both at the national and international level, the non-governmental and civil society organizations have played an equally important role. The media too has played a critical role in shaping public opinion and creating awareness. The Government of India and UNICEF collaborative initiatives over the years have focused on enhancing the capacities of the electronic and print media personnel in Ministry of Information and Broadcasting so as to integrate and reprint issues concerning children and their rights effectively. As a result the media is gradually focusing on children’s issues in a qualitative way.
India is a home to more than 400 million children who are below the age of 18 years. Children in India represent diverse cultures, religions, castes, communities and economic groups.
The efforts of National Human Rights Commission (N.H.R.C) are indeed laudable in identifying, studying, analyzing the problem of street children across the country and taking up remedial measures in consultation with various authorities, agencies etc.
Why street children are a socio- legal issue?
Street children in India is a socio-legal issue which needs to be tackled carefully and delicately, being a very sensitive issue as they are abandoned, neglected, thrown away for obvious reasons. Such children require the attention of people who keep them nearer to their hearts rather than their minds, as such not an easy job as is often thought; since it involves lot of patience, love for the job and to be closely associated with children of tender age, innocent, who have already been facing ill-treatment in the hands of unscrupulous elements in the society who are bent upon crushing the future of such children. It is therefore necessary and important that street children should be under the care of such individuals, agencies, societies and the authorities concerned who really, wholeheartedly, sincerely and affectionately handle them properly to achieve the desired results.
As already mentioned street children are victims of systemic poverty and routinely experience violations of their social and economic rights as well as their civil and political rights. Moreover, street children experience human rights violations at the hands of state and non-state actors. In addition to arbitrary detention, torture and murder, street children are also vulnerable to myriad other perils. For street children the biggest enemy is poverty. Most street children lack basic amenities like food, shelter, clothing and access to health care and education. Additionally, during extreme weather conditions, exposure to the elements can pose a serious threat.
Economic and social rights are very important to street children because children are more vulnerable than adults and have transitionally been subjected to discrimination. Therefore street children require special protection of their rights through the adoption of affirmative protective measures.
The neglect of economic, social and cultural rights is apparent in the nation of “generations” of rights. This conception assumes that international human rights norms fall into three broad categories in accordance with their historical manifestation. Thus in the 21st century the concept of human rights in respect of street children assumes greater significance that needs special attention by the experts from various fields, legal, psychological, social, economic and humanistic approach for their betterment and developmental growth. A major challenge to litigating economic and social right lies “in clarifying the content of these rights and determining their corresponding obligations. In general, it is now argued that the individual and not the states” is the active subject of all economic and social development which ultimately leads to the concept of pursuing human elements corresponding to protect the human rights particularly of street children.
Thus there is dire need to ponder over this issue in all seriousness, sincerity, humility, so that the problem of street children in the hands of unscrupulous elements, anti-social goons, human traffickers, hooligans etc; is solved and needful done to the deserving; which indeed is a remarkable achievement in the annals of the history of the unfortunate section of the society. Can there be a better service in the society than doing something to mitigate the hardships encountered by street children that satisfies their inner hearts and souls, emotionally, blissfully? Does it not amount to supporting the stronger view and faith “Service to humanity is indeed service to God”?
Children being the supreme asset, nothing concerning their survival, development, protection and participation should be ignored or sidelined. However, in a country with large number of floating population, vast disparities, social conflicts and turmoil, the challenge to attend to all their rights is even greater. The Government of India’s 2005 National Plan of Action for children has identified certain key areas, keeping in mind priorities that require utmost and sustained attention in terms of outreach, interventions and resource allocations. They are:10
1. Monitoring, review and reform of policies, programmes and laws to ensure protection of children’s interests and rights.
2. Complete abolition of child labour with the aim of progressively eliminating all the forms of economic exploitation of children.
3. Securing for children all legal and social protection from all kinds of abuse, exploitation and neglect.
4. Universalization of early childhood care and development and quality education for all children.
Several new plans, schemes and programmes have been initiated to address issues concerning children. Even then, the plight of children across the country does not seem to have reduced as such necessary laws, regulations need to amended, incorporated for better results in this regard.
The elaborate discussion in the preceding paragraphs will enable the readers to arrive at the following conclusion in order to have a blue print on the suitable, effective action plan to successfully work out, implement the guidelines set out and achieve the desired results. Indeed, it is a herculean job to be carried out meticulously, cautiously since the problem pertains to street children who are stubborn, timid, reckless and non-cooperative because of their upbringing and circumstances that forced them to be so. Therefore, the state, N.G. O’s, voluntary organizations, individuals, social activists who come forward and take up this task need to be mentally and physically be prepared for any eventuality. The action being countrywide great care should be taken at every stage right from the beginning of the action till the end of the plan; else the entire exercise becomes futile and unworthy.The following conclusions are drawn up for effective action plans: –
1. The guidelines of world conference on the rights of the child should be followed in better and spirit.
2. The U.N.I.C.E.F and N.H.R.C recommendations need to be given weightage for strict implementation of the programmes and schemes.
3. Human Rights Education Centers should be established throughout the country starting at the Mandal or Taluk level and awareness programmes need to be conducted giving , wide publicity holding public meetings, street level group discussion with village elders, conducting film shows, mock drills, dramas, audio-visual programmesetc; highlighting the importance, need to provide, care and protection of the street children.
4. State governments to allocate sufficient budget to carry out this magnificient and gigantic task for a noble and social cause.
5. The judiciary needs to review the decisions and alert the authorities concerned to initiate appropriate action against the defaulters.
6. Media has to play an important role in this regard which is a very powerful weapon and vociferous in action, especially in the matters relating to the social evils. Media does wonders when it comes to fight against ant-social elements and supporting the governments for all the rightful actions.
“A Child is an asset to the nation, so is the duty of the citizen to protect them”
Article is written by – Adv. Bhavna Bajaj
Writer is also a member of HRDI