7 Rights Street Children Are Denied Because You And I Call Them ‘Chotu’

Posted by Nitya Sriram in #TheInvisibles, Child Rights, Staff Picks
September 29, 2017
STC logoEditor’s Note: With #TheInvisibles, Youth Ki Awaaz and Save the Children India have joined hands to advocate for the rights of children in street situations in India. Share your stories of what you learned while interacting with street children, what authorities can do to ensure their rights are met, and how we can together fight child labour. Add a post today!

“Eh chotu, chai la!”
“Gudiya, raaste se hatt!”

Street children in India are denied basic human rights because of their lack of identity. Image for representation only. Source: Flickr

How often have we heard this, or even said it to the little boy working at a chai stall nearby, or to the little girl begging on the road? Have we ever paused, and thought to ourselves that we don’t even know or bother to find out their real names?

The truth is that in India, there are lakhs of children living in street situations. And according to Save the Children, a startling 79% live without a legal identity. We may think it’s harmless to dismiss someone as Chotu or Gudiya, but what actually ends up happening is that their lack of legal identity denies them access to basic human rights, such as nutrition, health facilities and education.

Don’t believe us? Take a look at 7 crucial rights denied to street children because they don’t have a legal identity:

1. Proof Of Existence

In India, 10 million births go unregistered annually, mostly of children from underprivileged, minority and excluded communities. Yet, the importance of a birth certificate cannot be ignored. For one, it is a record of an individual’s very existence and includes important indicators of their identity, including age, sex and parentage.

Without birth records, street children are often untraceable – and if you’re technically not born, then you’re not really going to be on the government’s radar as focus sectors of development, are you?

If you believe every child on India’s streets deserves proof of identity,
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2. Protection From Corruption And Police Brutality

A documentary by VICE on the conditions of children living at the Howrah Railway Station revealed how kids are regularly subject to beatings and other forms of police brutality. With no legal identity, they have no means to access their legal rights. What’s scarier is that the documentary revealed how once street kids reach the age of 14 or 15, they ‘disappear’. Where do they go? According to the documentary, it’s jail.

If you believe every child on India’s streets deserves protection from corruption,
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3. Protection From Forced Child Labour And Trafficking

A shocking 82.2 lakh Indian children are forced into child labour, lakhs among whom belong to the streets of India. And Chotu at the chai stall is no exception. With no legal identity, many children on India’s streets can be easily passed off as ‘above age’ for labour and makes them more vulnerable to trafficking. And no record of identity makes it very difficult to trace them, once lost.

If you believe every child on India’s streets deserves protection from forced labour,
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4. Enrollment Into School

In 2016, the Hindustan Times published a very helpful article about the Delhi nursery school admissions, with a checklist of documents necessary for enrolling a child into school. The first item on the checklist: a birth certificate. What’s more, a report by Scroll alleged that Delhi’s government schools are refusing admission to children without Aadhaar Cards! Chotu really stands no chance of improving his life without an ID, then, does he?

If you believe every child on India’s streets deserves to go to school,
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5. Healthcare Benefits

A recent Indian Express report alleged that the UP Government has made the Aadhaar Card compulsory for individuals to obtain health care benefits like free ambulance and TB treatment. And that’s not all – something as basic and necessary as health insurance requires ID proof, which is inaccessible to several underprivileged communities, among which fall children of and on the streets of India.

If you believe every child on India’s streets deserves healthcare benefits,
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Facing criticism for making Aadhaar Cards mandatory for children from underprivileged communities to avail of benefits under the Midday Meal Scheme, the government recently retracted its order. Now, any proof of identification is sufficient for children to avail the benefits of this scheme, among others. Kudos to the government, but what about the 79% of children living on the streets who don’t have an ID card? How do they avail their rightful share of welfare schemes?

6. Welfare Schemes Like The Midday Meal Scheme

Facing criticism for making Aadhaar Cards mandatory for children from underprivileged communities to avail of benefits under the Midday Meal Scheme, the government recently retracted its order. Now, any proof of identification is sufficient for children to avail the benefits of this scheme, among others. Kudos to the government, but what about the 79% of children living on the streets who don’t have an ID card? How do they avail their rightful share of welfare schemes?

If you believe every child on India’s streets deserves to benefit from welfare schemes,
Tweet your support!

7. Right To Vote

One of the most crucial rights you get as part of a democracy is the right to vote and choose your own leaders. But for street children who have no identity cards, it becomes almost impossible to register as a voter, unless there is some form of intervention through which they obtain legal identities.

If you believe every child on India’s streets deserves the right to vote,
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So, how can we help the lakhs of children on India’s streets living without legal identity? We can begin by checking out the Standard Operating Procedure for the Care and Protection of Children in Street Situations (SOP), which Save the Children in India and the NCPCR recently rolled out.

From identifying and helping children in street situations to proper reporting of child labour, the SOP details procedures that we can all follow to help. And we can share the message ahead, too! After all, if enough people are aware of the processes detailed in the SOP, we may soon reach a day, when there aren’t any children living in exploitative conditions on India’s streets anymore!

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