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

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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, which stand in the way of them building a future for themselves.

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,
Tweet your support!

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,
Tweet your support!

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 – trapping them in a vicious cycle of poverty.

If you believe every child on India’s streets deserves protection from forced labour,
Tweet your support!

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,
Tweet your support!

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,
Tweet your support!

 

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,
Tweet your support!

 

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 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. This could go a long way in helping children living in exploitative conditions to find their strengths, and fulfil their aspirations!

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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