BY LEKHNATH PANT
KATHMANDU, Sept 29 – As Dashain fever grips the country and Kathmandu becomes emptier with people from outside the capital heading home to celebrate the festival, little do people care about whether Dashain is a festival for Kathmandu’s street children as well.
If, by any chance, that question arose in your mind, here is the answer: YES.
Some organizations working for children are busy these days scheduling Dashain programs for street children. Bishwa Bajracharya, executive director of Saath Saath, said his organization has several programs for street children starting Thursday. Among the programs are Changa chait (kite flying), party, clothes distribution and Tika ceremony.
Similarly, Child Protection Center and Services (CPCS), another organization, has also scheduled Dashain celebrations for street children. Bijesh Shrestha, in-charge of this initiative, said children residing in the organization’s drop-in center and those on the streets will participate in the observance of Phulpati, goat slaughter the following day and receive Tika on their foreheads like any other kid.
Voice of Children, another organization, tried to convince street children to return home. However, even if they don’t, there is a sweet Dashain fete they can join in.
Sanu Giri, the program officer at CWIN said there are approximately 1000 street children in Kathmandu at the moment. Although there is no official data, it is estimated that there were 2000 street children in Kathmandu in 1990 and another 5000 around the country. The number of street children in Kathmandu decreased to 500 in 2001. The number at present has again shot up to 1000 due to conflict, according to Giri.
Kumar Pariyar, a street child says he won’t go home for Dashain. He has been in the streets of Kathmandu for three years. He says he is from Beltar but is unaware of his home district. Happily, Kumar says he is celebrating Dashain with Saath Saath.
Bibek Moktan, a street child from Hetauda, is not even aware that Dashain is around. While saying that he came to the streets after the death of his mother and mistreatment by his step-mother, he asked when Dashain festivities start.
While the state has neglected these children, they cherish the rosy hopes of grace shown by some NGOs, INGOs and kind people for the food and clothes in Dashain.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has stopped dealing with the problems faced by street children, according to Raju Shrestha, the program manager of Domestic Child Worker at KMC. In the past, the unit was looking after the problem under an International Labor Organization project. The project is over now.