KMC to issue birth certificates to 50,000 street children

KMC to issue birth certificates to 50,000 street children
Express News Service

Kolkata, June 18: Sheikh Qurban can now go to school.

Born to parents in a slum on Canal West Road, the 6-year-old has never had a birth certificate. But now, Qurban and 50,000 street children like him, will be issued birth certificates from the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

“The programme was taken up in the middle of 2005 and the groundwork has been carried out for the past 15 months covering the entire city. Around 75,000 children who do not have the certificates were identified. But ultimately, over 50,000 were found eligible for registration,” said Achintya Bhattacharya, secretary of the City Level Programme of Action.

The organisation represents the 74 Non-Governmental Organisations which are a part of the project supported by the Unicef and KMC.

Titled “Registering Births of Urban Deprived Children in Kolkata: A Pilot Project jointly undertaken by KMC, CLPOA and Unicef” the project was further facilitated by the relaxation of certain guidelines meant for registration of births.

“The state health department reduced the late fee for registration for these children from Rs 100 to 50 paise. Further, the Registrar General of India (Union ministry of home affairs) allowed group affidavits in place of individual affidavits,” said a Unicef spokesperson. For the 50,000 children, individual NGOs have filed group affidavits.

While the project has given an identity to thousands of children, chances of migrant children from adjoining states and countries cannot be ruled out. Representatives of the three agencies, however, say that extreme precaution have been taken in this regard.

“Our teams have identified those children as well who are living in the city but were born in Bihar or Orissa. These children are not being issued certificates by the KMC. We will try to take up the matter with the authorities concerned of these two states, later. So far we have not found any child born in Bangladesh or Nepal,” said a CLPOA representative.

Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya told Newsline that more such initiatives are in the pipeline. “We will continue this process (of registering the city’s underprivileged children),” Bhattacharya said.

Registration facts
* Birth registration will help protect the 50,000 children from abuses like early marriage, trafficking, labour and harassment by law enforcing agencies.
* The certificates will also help these children find place in schools and avail of voting rights once they are 18 years old.
* Around 97 per cent of the state’s population is registered. The “hard to reach” 3 per cent population is now under focus.

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