Taking note of the plight of street children during the coronavirus lockdown, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said this time could be used to create a database of the children so they could be linked to various government social schemes and be prevented from coming out on the streets again.
Generally found on traffic signals, railway platforms, religious places, shopping areas, near bus and auto stands, these children are often involved in rag-picking, street vending or begging. Post March 24, they are either at shelter homes or have walked down to their native places, however, nobody actually knows where they are.
"It could be an ideal situation to prevent these children from coming on the streets again. It is an unprecedented situation when even trains are not running. These children generally run away from homes on trains. Now they should be helped to settle down where they are right now," NCPCR chairman Priyank Kanungo told PTI Bhasha.
He also said that there is no need of any new law but the existing laws like Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act 2016 should be implemented efficiently and the NCPCR is working on it.
"The enforcement agencies in the child protection mechanism should work proactively with child welfare committees which are there in every district across the country. There are child welfare police officers and special juvenile police units in every police station. The CWC should prepare a database of these children with the help of these authorities so that they could benefit from various government schemes like BPL card, Right to food or Prime Minister Awas Yojna," he said.
According to a study by the NGO 'Save The Children', there are over two million children on the streets of India living in abject deprivation of the most basic rights and in poverty. It also found that over 80 per cent of the children living in streets have no form of a legal identity document, denying them access to social entitlements.
In a project 'Spotlight on the Invisibles', in collaboration with the NCPCR, they carried out a census of street children last year.
"This project has been able to link 2,29,262 children in street situations with a legal identity documents across 10 cities (tier 1 and 2) across the country. Apart from identity documents, 89,180 children have been linked to various schemes and services of government. But this number is much less in comparison to total number of street children in India. We have to reach maximum children who need support and protection," Anindit Roy Choudhury, Director Programmes, Save The Children told PTI.
"Most often than not, children in street situations are often left out from being counted. Therefore, a large group is often unaccounted for. In the current scenario they could be subjected to sexual exploitation, trafficking or any crime," he added.
"They do not exist in the Indian Census study. This makes children in the street even more vulnerable to being left out from social protection schemes that the government provides and from being protected. It is imperative that all children are given identity cards so that they can be brought under existing social and child protection schemes," he added.
Kanungo has said that NCPCR is revisiting the standard operating procedures for children in street situations developed in collaboration with 'Save the Children' and will finalise it in next 8-10 days.
"We are revisiting this SOP which was prepared in 2017 and hopefully will finalise it during the lockdown itself. We are working on the shortcomings and will try to implement it in a more effective manner," he said.
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