Day before yesterday, I was traveling to a local mall by car and it so happened that I got stuck at every traffic light and waited for at least 70 seconds each. In those 70 seconds what I saw made my eyes swollen with tears. At each red light, wherever our car stopped, a bunch of street children rushed to beg for some money. I strictly believe in not giving money to the beggars because they should earn a living, not beg. I must have seen around 5 to 10 children at each red light, and there are 8 traffic lights between my home and the mall.
When I returned home, I researched over the net about the problem of street children in India. What I found nearly shook me and I made it a point to share the facts with you. So below are a few facts about the social evil. Do read.
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 UNICEF state of the world children report, the following facts came forward: 47% street children under the age of 3 are malnourished and around 2.2 million street children die before the age of 5.
40,000 street children die everyday in the world, 30% 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.
A Childhood cut short: Treatment of the Children
Street children in India are a soft target as they are young, small, poor and ignorant about their rights. The condition of these homeless children often leads to them resorting to petty thefts, 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 takes financial incentives from these children in order to make money and in case the children fail to pay they are beaten up like criminals and given third degree. In some cases it has also led to mental dis-balance and even deaths.
These underage vulnerable children if found doing wrong things 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 police lock ups or jail. But this act is often ignored. Moreover, at the remand stage the law makes no distinction between a 6 year old orphan and a 15 year old child who has committed robbery and both are treated the same.
AIDS: The Disease which is a part of their lives
One of the major problems they face is AIDS. The street children at the Indian railway stations (Delhi and Mumbai in particular) are the worst affected. 35% of them have Tuberculosis, the first symptom of AIDS. More than 5 million children all over the 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 the most vulnerable to AIDS. The article brought forward the irony of one such girl, out of the millions, Uma(name changed) a 9 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 childre , both boys and girls, who have gone through worse.
Below is an exert from an article of http://www.aidsalliance.org/ do read
Blair shocked by India’s street children
04 October 2005
UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, got a chance to talk to street children involved in an Alliance-supported project last month. The visit to Salaam Baalak Trust, an organisation that works with street children in New Delhi, gave Tony Blair a chance to see at first hand what life is like for these children.
Sasi Kumar, director of programmes at Alliance India, introduced Tony Blair to a group of seven to ten year-olds at the project who were drawing pictures, offering a glimpse into the realities of life that many young street children in India experience.
One boy showed drawings of himself sleeping in the street, getting beaten up by the police, harassed by shopkeepers and selling balloons. Tony Blair asked a girl why she had drawn a picture of a house and she replied that it was because she had no house.
Tony Blair, visibly shaken by this glimpse into their lives, asked Sasi Kumar how their problems could be solved. The lasting solution, he was told, is to reduce poverty.
“WE SEE THE RICH WHO HAVE ALOT, WHO WILL NOT HELP THEM, WILL NOT GIVE BACK TO THE SOCIETY. MY HEART HOPES THAT ONE DAY THERE WILL BE AN END TO ALL THIS THAT WE FACE. I HOPE THAT ONE DAY THE SAVIOUR WILL LOOK AFTER THESE CHILDREN AND MAKE THEM SEE A BRIGHTER MORNING AND GIVE THEM A BETTER SLEEP.”
The way in which we can help them is by being aware and not tolerating such behaviour against them. The poor will remain poor until and unless the need and want for education is felt. The more we sensitize them, the better lives they lead. Help them live a life. Save a life.
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