NEW DELHI: By all accounts the Capital’s street children are vulnerable to all forms of exploitation and abuse. And their daily lives are likely to be far removed from the childhood envisaged in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
As a result, these children suffer from sexually transmitted diseases, drug abuse and crime resulting in a deep sense of insecurity and emotional conflict. These findings are based on a recent survey conducted by Plan India in association with the Indian Alliance of Child Rights, Bal Sahyog, NGO forum and YWCA as part of registration of children living in difficult circumstances.
While Delhi’s official report on registration of births and deaths suggests that it has 100 per cent registration, the worrisome fact is that it is home to a number of unregistered children of sex workers, unwed or under-age mothers, Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes and girl children.
According to the voluminous report, 658 of the 1,065 children surveyed were born in Delhi and 407 in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Assam, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Each NGO took a few children to the registration authorities and they experienced that registering children of less than one year did not face much of a problem. But proof of permanent address was demanded even though street children of older age, particularly without family, move continuously from one location to another. Police verification was asked for and there were expenses involved for registration fee including penalties.
The findings present a bleak picture of the quest for an identity for these children. The moot question is how the birth registration system should operate between street children and the registration authority.
Speaking about the problems faced by the street children, Plan India Executive Director Bhagyashri Dengle said there are relatively fewer children who actually live on the streets compared with those who use the streets as a means to earn a living. "It includes children who might not necessarily be homeless or without families, but who live in situations where there is no protection, supervision or direction from responsible adults," she said, adding that Plan India works to ensure that children are not exposed to exploitative situations.