After 60 years of Independence street children are still seen fighting for their freedom. In the UNICEF world children report, 47 per cent street children under the age of three are malnourished and around 2.2 million die before the age of five
DAY BEFORE yesterday I was travelling to a local mall by car, it so happened that I got stuck at every traffic light and waited at least 200 seconds at each. In those 200 seconds what I saw literally made my eyes go red. At each red light, wherever our car stopped, a bunch of street children came rushing to beg or to sell. I strictly believe in not giving money to the beggars because they should earn a living, not beg. I must have seen around five to 10 children at each red light, and there are eight traffic lights between my home and the mall.
When I returned home, I began surfing the internet and started working on my next research: Street children in India. What I found nearly shook me and I made it a point to post it on my blog as a part of youth awareness. So below are a few facts about the social evil.
India and street children: An overview
India, in its developing stage, has the largest population of street children in the world. Around 25 million street children live here, which is the combined population of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. In the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) state of the world children report, the following facts came forward: 47 per cent street children under the age group of three are malnourished and around 2.2 million die before the age of five.
About 40,000 street children die everyday in the world, 30 per cent being Indians. In an era of development, the lives of these children are bleak and misty. They don’t know what their tomorrow is. And those who do know are quiet. What they don’t understand is that a child is a man in miniature, and it ought to be treated like one.
Children cut short: Treatment of street children
Street children in India are a soft target as they are young, poor and ignorant about their rights. The condition of these homeless children often leads to them resorting to petty theft, robberies, drug trafficking, prostitution, murders and other criminal activities.
A level of fear and intimidation is created in their minds because of the behaviour of the police.
Police often take money from these children and in case the children fail to pay they are beaten up like criminals and given third degree treatment. In some cases it has also led to mental disbalance and even deaths.
These underage vulnerable children, if found doing something wrong should be sent to orphanages for self improvement instead of being tortured by the police and the general public.
Under the Juvenile Justice Act, no "Neglected" or "Delinquent" juvenile should be put in a police lock up or jail. But this act is often ignored. Moreover, at the remand stage the law makes no distinction between a six-year old orphan and a 15-year old child who has committed robbery and both are treated in the same manner which leads to a childhood cut short.
Major problem they face: AIDS
One of the major problems the children face is AIDS. The street children at the railway stations are worst affected and 35 per cent of them have Tuberculosis, the first symptom of AIDS. More than five million children on Indian streets are HIV positive.
Of these, girls are the worst affected. They are raped, taken away by touts and sold in brothels. Not a single girl at the New Delhi railway station has been spared.
In 1997, the Inter Press News Service wrote an article stating that the street children in India are most vulnerable to AIDS. The article brought to the fore the irony of one such girl among millions. Uma (name changed) a nine-year old girl was raped by a gang of homeless boys at the New Delhi railway station, where she also lived. The same happened over and over again. This led to the poor child delivering a still born baby.
This is just one story. There are millions of children, both boys and girls, who have gone through worse. It is for us, the citizens of India to help them create a brighter future.