Street Children-Human Rights, A Socio Legal Issue In India
Very recently a news item appeared in a national daily with a pathetic photograph of two rag pickers fighting to collect leftover food items near a dustbin in a street corner in a metro city, the site was very ugly, unhygienic, and full of stench and none dares to step in for the fear of getting infected with deadly contagious diseases.
What a message one should get out of it?
Are we so inhuman, insensitive and unconcerned for the fellow beings in the society?
Do the two children (rag-pickers) have no right to a decent living in the society?
Is it not disgraceful to the members of the society?
The focus of this paper is to highlight the plight of the unfortunate, hapless section of our society and to study about the ameliorative measures needed to rehabitate them for a better living in the society.
Street children in our country are in a sizeable number as such there is a dire need for the governments at the Central and State level, N.G.O’s other welfare societies and organizations to render necessary services to uplift them and make them acceptable to the society.
If one takes a philosophical note can there be a greater sin than being street children in the society?
Needless to say a duty is cast on us on sociological grounds, that street children should not be neglected and fend for themselves.
How an individual can lead a joyful and peaceful life when street children around him are poorly clad and hunger stricken.
Is it not true and correct that street children in India are looked down as inhuman and chattel, for a moment forgetting the fact they are also the creation of God Almighty?
Is it a sin or curse upon the street children?
Is there no scope, remedy, solution to tackle this problem?
I am sure and confident that this problem can easily be solved and a new life is given to this unfortunate section of the society, provided we have a soft corner for them. Needless to say the street children in India is a socio-legal issue which has assumed greater significance and got coverage in the whole world. It is the right time for all the intellectuals, N.G.O’s and other voluntary organizations to come forward with strong determination, study this problem on humanitarian grounds and render all assistance, guidance to enable them to get away from such miserable life, look for green pastures and lead normal life.
The street children problem can be studied from different angles viz; Human Rights, Child Protection Laws, Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy under the Constitution of India; Juvenile Delinquency Act etc. so as to do justice to them wholeheartedly and mitigate the loss caused to them economically and sociological at the very tender ages.
The United Nations Organisation (U.N.O) declaration of Human Rights dated 10-12-1948 is the first venture to come out with proper and suitable solution to redress the problems of the street children. The U.N.H.R (United Nations Human Rights) paved the way to this serious socio-legal issue and all the nations in the world adopted the policies, rules and regulations for implementation in the right direction. The efforts of U.N.O are laudable and commendable for all the reasons to highlight the sufferings of the poor, helpless and innocent street children in India and the world over. In fact it is considered as a universal problem thereby attracting the attention of developed nations who are caught up with the problem. The declaration of Human Rights categorically defined and issued necessary guidelines to save them from all miseries which indeed is highly appreciable and noteworthy. Many member nations including India have taken a serious note of it and accordingly implemented in all sincerity.
The fundamental rights in Part-III and Directive Principles of State Policy in Part-IV of the Constitution of India provided for the rights of the street children in free India and the duty of the state and central governments to take up welfare measures for the upliftment of them. Such is the importance given to the street children in India. There are several other legislations which highlight the need, urgency and scope not only on the study of the problems of the street children but also providing suitable alternative measures to enable them to get rid of the miseries and step into a new life. Is it not out of place to mention herein that apart from the government, voluntary organizations, societies and welfare bodies need to shoulder the responsibility in this regard and render their bit of service?
Street Children And The Society
In order to better understand and appreciate the study on the street children, it is very important and pertinent to know the meaning, definition of the term “Street Children”. It is a term for children experiencing poverty (homelessness) that are living on the streets of a city and selling their body to strive. Street kids and Street youth, the definition of street children is contested, but many practitioners and policymakers use U.N.I.C.E.F (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) concept of boys and girls aged under 18 years old, for whom “The Street” (including unoccupied dwellings and wasteland) has become home and / or their source of livelihood and are inadequately protected or supervised1.
Some street children, notably in more developed nations are part of a subcategory called destitute children or thrown away children, who are children those who have been forced to leave home from single parents. Street children are often subject to abuse, neglect, exploitation or the extreme cases, murder by “Clean up squads” that have been hired by local businesses or police. In western societies, such children are treated as homeless children rather than criminals or beggars.
It is also important to note that the term “Street Children’ also include individual girls and boys of all ages are found living and working in public places and are visible in the great majority of the world’s urban centers.
If one tries to trace out the background, the phenomenon of street children has been documented as far back as 1848. Alan Ball, in the introduction to his book, on the history of abandoned children has been as source of misery from the earliest times. By 1922 there were at least seven millions homeless children in Russia due to the devastation from World War-I and the Russian Civil War. Abandoned Children formed gangs created their own argot and engaged in petty thefts and prostitution. The causes of this phenomenon are varied but are often related to domestic, economic or social disruption including , but not limited to, poverty, breakdown of homes and or families; political unrest, authorization, sexual , physical or emotional abuse , domestic violence, lured away by pimps, internet predators or begging syndicates, mental health problems, substance abuse and sexual abuse.
It is evident that street children are not born so but the society is responsible for such a shameful act, as the saying goes “Criminals are not born but made” which is true even in the case of street children. Several instances have come to light where highly educated and affluent family members abandoned children to cover up the dark side of their lives. Is it the fault of such children? What sin have they committed to dawn on the earth? Whom to blame? This is not the case in India, even the western countries are no better in this regard. Of course the street children should bear the brunt of this even without their knowledge or consent. Does it not look strange? Whom to blame? Unless the society changes its outlook and wise counsel prevails on them, this evil practice continues and no solace is found to the street children.
It is a common sight to find at the Bus Stands, Railway Stations, and Traffic Signals etc. women carrying infants and begging. These days the under passages of the flyovers, metro corridors have become their dwelling places. The pavement dwellers in the metro cities are no exception. The famous “Olga Tellis” case2, speaks volumes about the social responsibility, where a voluntary organization took up the case against Bombay Municipal Corporation for evicting them overnight without providing any alternate arrangement. The Supreme Court of India, in this case reprimanded the corporation for their callous attitude towards the unfortunate section of the people. In another case of Bandhu Mukthi Morcha3, again another voluntary organisation filed case against an employer for forcing street children to become bonded labour. The Supreme Court appreciated the efforts of the petitioner for espousing social cause.
Street children are among the most physically visible of all children, living and working on the roads and public squares of cities all over the world. Yet, paradoxically, they are also among the most “invisible” and therefore hardest children to reach vital services such as education and health care and the most difficult to protect. The term “Street Children” is problematic as it can be employed as a stigmatizing label. One of the greatest problems such children face is their demonetisation by mainstream society as a threat and a source of criminal behavior. Yet many children living or working on the streets have embraced the term, considering that it offers them a sense of identity and belonging. It should not obscure the fact that the many children who live and work on the street do so in multifarious ways and for a rage of reasons and each of them is unique, with their own, often strongly felt, point of view.
The exact number street children is impossible to quantify, but it is likely to number in the tens of millions or higher, some estimates place in the figure as high as 100 millions. It is likely that the numbers are increasing as the global population grows and as urbanization continues at a pace. In practice, every city in the world has some street children including the biggest and the richest cities by 2015.
Most of the street children are not orphans. Many are still in contact with their families and work on the streets to augment the household income. Many others have run away from their homes, often in response to psychological, physical or sexual abuse. The majority is males, as girls seem to endure abusive or exploitative situations at home for longer-though once, they do leave their home and family; girls are generally less likely to return. Once on the street, children become vulnerable to all forms of exploitation and abuse and their daily lives are likely to be far removed from childhood envisioned in the convention on the Rights of the Child. In some cases, those who are entrusted to protect them become the perpetrators of crimes against them. Street children have been harassed or beaten by police and often find themselves in conflict with the law. Some have been rounded up, driven outside city limits and left there, others have been murdered by vigilantes in the name of “Cleaning up the city”; often with the complicity or disregard of local authorities.
The discussion in the preceding paragraphs clearly establish the fact that the street children have a lot of impact on the neighbouring society where hardly they find any place as such the issue has to be tackled from different angles, horizons that suit the nature, habitat, inclination and attitude of them, to study the conditions of the street children and what the society has to do for their upliftment.
The term “Street Children” is not uncommon in the world over and universal existence. It has become an integral part of the society as such causative factor for socio-legal issues which hamper at times the developmental process of the well being of street children. Is there any person, society or trust which is hastle free upon taking up the cause of street children? Why should this happen despite this being a social and noble cause? Who then will come forward to associate with such activities that help street children to gather strength, become self confident and make a living for themselves with none to support them?
This paper / article throws some light upon the socio-legal issues connected with street children before dealing with human rights issues in the next chapter, to justify the scope of this paper; especially in India where people follow different faiths, religions, economic strata, social status etc; which indeed is a herculean task. The socio-legal issues connected with street children are plenty, however only few and quite common are dealt with herein with a fond hope that if at least these issues are tackled in the right perspective, hopefully street children spread all over India will have a respite.
Most people have heard the term “Street Children” before. However, many people might not know or understand who street children are or what the situation of street children is like. “Street Children” is a term which has been used now for many years to describe a group of particularly vulnerable children who are marginalised and often socially excluded from the community in which they live. The term “Street Children” has been most frequently used is that of boys and girls aged fewer than 18 from whom “the street” (including unoccupied dwellings and wasteland) has become home and their source of livelihood and who are inadequately protected or supervised4.
A “Child of street” having no home but the streets. The family may have abandoned him or her or may have no family members alive. Such a child has to struggle for survival and might wander from friend to friend or live in shelters such as abandoned buildings (or sleep in alleyways or on the pavement). Street children like all other children under the age of 18 years old have a range of specific rights under the United Nations Convention on Rights of the child. These rights provide minimum standards of protection for children; however by virtue of the situations they live and work in, street children are at risk of many of their rights being violated or not fully realized, leaving them vulnerable
Reasons For Street Children To Work And Live
The World Health Organisation (W.H.O) notes that every street children has a reason for being on the street and “while some children are lured by to promise of excitement and freedom, the majority are pushed onto the street by desperation and realization that they have nowhere else to go5. Moreover, recent studies across a number of countries show that “in all parts of the world, most street children have experienced intra-family violence and come from fragile families located in income poor neighbours”6. There are many reasons why street children are vulnerable and the challenges that they face are varied.
Sec.2 (2) of the Children Act 1960 of India defines a “neglected child” as a child who
(i) is found begging
(ii) or is found without having any home or settled place of abode or any ostensible means of subsistence or is found destitute, whether he is an orphan or not
(iii) or has a parent or guardian who is unfit to exercise or does not exercise proper care and control over the child
(iv) or lives in brothel or with a prostitute.
Thus the neglected children are the example of socio-legal issue, which need to be examined.
The plight and problem of “Socially unwanted Children” who are born outside the wedlock and who are the products of broken homes are often discussed in various seminars and conferences in India and abroad where purposeful resolution and recommendations were adopted. According to estimation every year about a million new born children in India are thrown away as “unwanted babies”. With facilities for their care being limited just about 25,000 of them receive institutional attention. The setting up of more homes with “voluntary agencies” for undertaking this institutional service is essential. Public support is required for action programmes to rehabilitate these children. Counseling centers should be established to give advice to unmarried mothers to get over this crisis and help in making their children acceptable to society. The child born to an unwed mother, a prostitute or an ill-faced girl lands in a world of misery7. The children born to concubines are totally neglected and they don’t have any status and are looked down in the society, as such a fit case of socio-legal problem.
Categories of Child Labour
Child labour is a term that needs to be unpacked it cannot be used in a sweeping manner but covers a range and variety of circumstances in which children work.
(a) Child Labour
Those children who are doing paid or unpaid work in factories, workshops, establishments, mines and in the service sector such as domestic labour. The Ministry of labour, Government of India has employed the term “Child Labour” only in the context of children doing “hazardous” work. By implication, children who are not doing hazardous work are not considered to be child labourers and are said to be doing child work. The consequence of this narrow definition of child labour is that the Labour Ministry’s definition only includes a very small percentage of children who are in the work force and leaves out millions of children who require policy and programmatic support from the government.
(b) Street Children
Children living on and off the streets such as shoeshine boys, rag pickers, newspaper vendors, beggars etc; the problem of street children is somewhat different from that of child labour in factories and workshops. For one thing, most children have some sort of home to go back in the evenings or nights, while street children are completely above and are at the mercy of their employers. They live on the pavements, in the bus stations and railway stations. They are at the mercy of urban predators as also the police. They have no permanent base and are often on the move. So their problem is more acute than that of children working in a factory and living at home.
(c) Bonded Labour
Children who have either been pledged by their parents for paltry sums of money or those working to pay off the inherited debts of their fathers. Bonded child labour is an acute problem in some states. Bonded labour children are in many ways the most difficult to assist because they are inaccessible. For example, if a carpet owner has bought them, they cannot escape. If the middle class housewife has paid for them, they cannot runaway. If the landlord in the village owns them, they had to spend their life in servitude till they get married and can, in turn sell their children.
(d) Working Children
Children who are working as part of a family labour in agriculture and in home based work8. Quite often such kind of children are either abandoned or missing or neglected who find no other means to live and end up in such works. This is the largest category of children who are
out of school and are working full time and it is here that we find the largest percentage of girls working at the cost of education.
(e) Children Used For Sexual Exploitation
Many thousands of young girls and boys serve the sexual appetite of men from all social and economic backgrounds. Direct links between the commercial sexual exploitation of children and other forms of exploitative child labour are numerous. Factories, workshops, street corners, railway stations, bus stations and homes where children work are common sites of sexual exploitation. Children are powerless to resist abuse by employers, either as perpetrators as procures for city brothels, lending money to the family which must be paid back through the daughter’s work. Almost all such children are betrayed by those they trust and end up with their trust abused. The physical and psycho-social damage inflicted by commercial sexual exploitation makes it one of the most hazardous forms of child labour.
(f) Migrant Children
India faces a huge challenge with distress seasonal migration. Millions of families are being forced to leave their home and villages for several months every year, in search of livelihood. The number of children below 14 years of age thus affected may already be in the order of 9 million.
Children Engaged In Household Activities
There is large number of children (especially girls) who are working in their own houses, engaged in what is not normally seen as “economic activity”. Further, if such children are not sent to schools, they finally have to join the band wagon of the above categories of child labour.
Constitutional Provisions For Protection of Street Children
“The Sight of a child - a boy or a girl - without adequate food or clothing or house to live in always produces a sense of shock in me as well as a sense of share” - Jawahar Lal Nehru
As has been discussed in the earlier chapters the problem of street children is universal as such needs greater attention to tackle the same for the wellbeing of the society. Needless to say United Nations, International Legal Organisation (I.L.O) have studied this problem in depth and initiated drastic steps which all the member nations followed in verbatum. Still much needs to be done considering the growth of street children in all parts of the world including India. Undoubtedly, the street children, who form considerable proportion of the world population, are also human beings so need to be cared and protected by all means.
Louis Henkin in his book “The Ages of Rights” defines Human Rights; “Human Rights are rights of individuals in society. Every human being has legitimate, valid, justified claims upon his or her society.” Section 2(1)(d) of the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 defines “Human Rights: Human Rights mean the right relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International covenants and enforceable by the courts in India. The definition given in Sec.2 (1) (d) is not exhaustive. It should be read with the rights enunciated in various international covenants such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the Geneva “Red Cross” conventions 1949; Helsinki Declaration 1975; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 etc.
Manorama year book “Human Rights are those that individuals have by virtue of their existence as human beings. The right to life itself and the basic necessities of food and clothing may be considered fundamental human rights. Human Rights traditionally have been put in the categories natural rights and civil rights. Natural rights are those that belong to individuals by virtue of their humanity; the right to remain alive; to sustain life with food and shelter and to follow the dictats of their conscience.
Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (U.D.H.R) says “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
A group of scholars describe the human rights as the “inalienable rights”, a set of human rights that are fundamental are not awarded by human power, and cannot be surrendered.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (U.D.H.R)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (U.D.H.R) was declared and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10th December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris, France
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
There are 30(thirty) Articles; some of the important are quoted below for reference.
Article 1 : All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Article 3 : Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 4 : No one shall be held in slavery, or servitude, slavery and the slave trade should be prohibited in all forms.
Article 9 : No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 15(1) : Everyone has the right to a nationality
Article 23 : Everyone has the right to work to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
Article 25(1) : Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and his family……………….
(2) : Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Article 26(1) : Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.
(2) : Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Article 29(1) : Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
The United Nations Convention On The Rights of The Child (U.N.C.R.C)
The Children’s Right movement is a historical and modern movement committed to the acknowledgement, expansion and or regression of the rights of children around the world. The U.N.C.R.C explains “A child is any human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.”
The Child Rights Information Network (C.R.I.N) was formed in 1983. It is the group of 1600 Non-Governmental Organisations from around the world which advocate for the implementation of convention on the Rights of the Child. While all children need protection, because of their social, economic or even geographical location, some children are more vulnerable than others and need special attention. These children are:-
1. Homeless children (Pavement dwellers, displaced refugees etc.)
2. Migrant children
3. Street and runaway children
4. Orphaned or Abandoned children
5. Working children
6. Child beggars
7. Children of prostitutes
8. Trafficked children
9. Children in jails/ prisons
10. Children affected by conflict
11. Children affected by natural disasters
12. Children affected by H.I.V/ A.I.D.S
Therefore there is a dire need to save, protect and care the street children.
The Constitutional And Statutory Provisions Relating To The Child Rights In India
The Constitution of India guarantees several rights to all children. The Special and Guaranteed Articles are:-
Article 21.A : The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six (6) to fourteen (14) years. Article 21 A has been inserted in the Constitution by the constitutes (86th Amendment / Act 2002 with effect from 01-04-2010. The Indian Parliament enacted the Rights of Children to free and Education Act 2009
Article 24 : No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any hazardous employment.
Article 39(e) : The state shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that the health and strength of workers, men and women and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.
Article 39(f) : The state shall in, particular, direct its policy towards securing that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
Article 45 : Provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six (6) years. Article 45 was substituted by the Constitution (86th Amendment) Act 2002 with effect from 01-04-2010.
Article 51A (K): Fundamental Duties
It shall be the duty of every citizen of India (k) “who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or as the case may be ward between the age of six (6) and fourteen (14) years”.
Article 51 A (K) was inserted by the Constitution (86th Amendment/ Act 2002 with effect from 01-04-2010.
Besides the above said articles, some of the Articles of the Constitution provide and guarantee the Rights of the children equally with the citizens of India just as any other adult male or female
Article 14 : Right to Equality.
Article 15 : Right against discrimination.
Article 21 : Right to personal liberty and due process of law.
Article 23 : Right to being protected from being trafficked and forced into bonded labour
Article 46 : Right to weaker sections of the people to be protected from social injustice and all forms of exploitation etc.
Role of Judiciary
From the Seventh Five Year Plan (7th Five Year Plan) onwards, the judiciary and the Supreme Court too have played an active role in upholding the rights of the child. The concept of “Social action litigation” in India represents an effort to use the legal system to ensure action to realize constitutionally guaranteed rights. Some of the most important examples of social action litigation for children are the following cases, each of which has been a landmark in the process of ensuring children’s rights.
(a) Lakshmikant Pandey Vs U.O.I (A.I.R 1984, SC 469; A.I.R 1986 SC 276; A.I.R 1987 SC 232) on adoption of children.
(b) Shiela Barse Vs U.O.I (A.I.R 1986, SC 1883; A.I.R 1988 SC 2211) on trafficking of children.
(c) M.C,Mehta Vs State of Tamilnadu (JT.1999 SC 263) on problem of child labour.
(d) Vishal Jeet Vs U.O.I (1990(3) SC 318)) on problem of child prostitution.
(e) Unnikrishnan Vs State of Andhra Pradesh (1993 (1) SC 645)) on education of children.
(f) Gaurav Jain Vs U.O.I (1997 (8) SC 114)) on problems of prostitution and children forced into prostitution.
(g) Gita Hariharan Vs R.B.I (1999.2.SC 228) on guardianship.
(h) Center for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (C.E.H.A.T) & others Vs U.O.I (2000 SC 301)
Role of Non Governmental Organisations (N.G.O’s) And Media
In accomplishing the milestones, both at the national and international level, the non-governmental and civil society organizations have played an equally important role. The media too has played a critical role in shaping public opinion and creating awareness. The Government of India and UNICEF collaborative initiatives over the years have focused on enhancing the capacities of the electronic and print media personnel in Ministry of Information and Broadcasting so as to integrate and reprint issues concerning children and their rights effectively. As a result the media is gradually focusing on children’s issues in a qualitative way.
India is a home to more than 400 million children who are below the age of 18 years. Children in India represent diverse cultures, religions, castes, communities and economic groups9.
The efforts of National Human Rights Commission (N.H.R.C) are indeed laudable in identifying, studying, analyzing the problem of street children across the country and taking up remedial measures in consultation with various authorities, agencies etc.
Role of Police
Very recently the police department officials with active participation of the media successfully rescued around 22 boys below the age of 12 years in the old city of Hyderabad, Telangana State, all of whom and were brought from Bihar, to work in oil industry, (clandestinely), under miserable conditions. The police department later boarded them in trains, accompanied and left them in Bihar. Is it not such a touching, pathetic story or incident happening even today? There may be several such incidents across the countries which have not been focused in the media or print for obvious reasons.
It is not out of place to mention herein the famous case of “VILAGARAN MORALES ET AL V. GUATEMALA” (The Street Children Case, Inter-American Court of Human Rights) for International Human Rights Law, which clearly establishes the significance of the role of the government (states), the judiciary and other agencies in making all efforts to view this problem in all seriousness and curb the menace with an iron hand in order to bring a new life to the street children and erase the stigma cast on them in the society. My endeavour through this paper is to bring home the implications in the social case in India is all fairness for a social cause.
“Street children” in India is a socio-legal issue which needs to be tackled carefully and delicately, being a very sensitive issue as they are abandoned, neglected, thrown away for obvious reasons. Such children require the attention of people who keep them nearer to their hearts rather than their minds, as such not an easy job as is often thought; since it involves lot of patience, love for the job and to be closely associated with children of tender age, innocent, who have already been facing ill-treatment in the hands of unscrupulous elements in the society who are bent upon crushing the future of such children. Does it not amount to a crime in one sense? Is such an attitude or behavior of these people in the society not condemnable, tolerable? It is therefore necessary and important that street children should be under the care of such individuals, agencies, societies and the authorities concerned who really, wholeheartedly, sincerely and affectionately handle them properly to achieve the desired results.
As already mentioned street children are victims of systemic poverty and routinely experience violations of their social and economic rights as well as their civil and political rights. Moreover, street children experience human rights violations at the hands of state and non-state actors. The involvement of fundamental inalienable rights was critical to the outcome of villagrain morale. In addition to arbitrary detention, torture and murder, street children are also vulnerable to myriad other perils. For street children the biggest enemy is poverty. Most street children lack basic amenities like food, shelter, clothing and access to health care and education. Additionally, during extreme weather conditions, exposure to the elements can pose a serious threat.
Economic and social rights are very important to street children because children are more vulnerable than adults and have transitionally been subjected to discrimination. Therefore street children require special protection of their rights through the adoption of affirmative protective measures.
The neglect of economic, social and cultural rights is apparent in the nation of “generations” of rights. This conception assumes that international human rights norms fall into three broad categories in accordance with their historical manifestation. Thus in the 21st century the concept of human rights in respect of street children assumes greater significance that needs special attention by the experts from various fields, legal, psychological, social, economic and humanistic approach for their betterment and developmental growth. A major challenge to litigating economic and social right lies “in clarifying the content of these rights and determining their corresponding obligations. In general, it is now argued that the individual and not the states” is the active subject of all economic and social development which ultimately leads to the concept of pursuing human elements corresponding to protect the human rights particularly of street children.
Thus there is dire need to ponder over this issue in all seriousness, sincerity, humility, so that the problem of street children in the hands of unscrupulous elements, anti-social goons, human traffickers, hooligans etc; is solved and needful done to the deserving; which indeed is a remarkable achievement in the annals of the history of the unfortunate section of the society. Can there be a better service in the society than doing something to mitigate the hardships encountered by street children that satisfies their inner hearts and souls, emotionally, blissfully? Does it not amount to supporting the stronger view and faith “Service to humanity is indeed service to God”?
Will there be a better and befitting challenge in the society than to try to understand and study the causative factors which drive the street children on to the roads, none to support, find, and lend moral and physical assistance in the times to come?
Children being the supreme asset, nothing concerning their survival, development, protection and participation should be ignored or sidelined. However, in a country with large number of floating population, vast disparities, social conflicts and turmoil, the challenge to attend to all their rights is even greater. The Government of India’s 2005 National Plan of Action for children has identified certain key areas, keeping in mind priorities that require utmost and sustained attention in terms of outreach, interventions and resource allocations. They are:10
1. Monitoring, review and reform of policies, programmes and laws to ensure protection of children’s interests and rights.
2. Complete abolition of child labour with the aim of progressively eliminating all the forms of economic exploitation of children.
3. Securing for children all legal and social protection from all kinds of abuse, exploitation and neglect.
4. Universalisation of early childhood care and development and quality education for all children.
Several new plans, schemes and programmes have been initiated to address issues concerning children. Even then, the plight of children across the country does not seem to have reduced as such necessary laws, regulations need to amended, incorporated for better results in this regard.
The elaborate discussion in the preceding paragraphs will enable the readers to arrive at the following conclusion in order to have a blue print on the suitable, effective action plan to successfully work out, implement the guidelines set out and achieve the desired results. Indeed it is a herculean job to be carried out meticulously, cautiously since the problem pertains to street children who are stubborn, timid, reckless and non-cooperative because of their upbringing and circumstances that forced them to be so. Therefore the state, N.G.O’s, voluntary organizations, individuals, social activists who come forward and take up this task need to be mentally and physically be prepared for any eventuality. The action being countrywide great care should be taken at every stage right from the beginning of the action till the end of the plan; else the entire exercise becomes futile and unworthy.
The following conclusions are drawn up for effective action plans:-
1. The guidelines of world conference on the rights of the child should be followed in better and spirit.
2. The U.N.I.C.E.F and N.H.R.C recommendations need to be given weightage for strict implementation of the programmes and schemes.
3. Human Rights Education Centers should be established throughout the country starting at the Mandal or Taluk level and awareness programmes need to be conducted giving , wide publicity holding public meetings, street level group discussion with village elders, conducting film shows, mock drills, dramas, audio-visual programmes etc; highlighting the importance, need to provide, care and protection of the street children.
4. State governments to allocate sufficient budget to carry out this magnificient and gigantic task for a noble and social cause.
5. The judiciary needs to review the decisions and alert the authorities concerned to initiate appropriate action against the defaulters.
6. Media has to play an important role in this regard which is a very powerful weapon and vociferous in action, especially in the matters relating to the social evils. Media does wonders when it comes to fight against ant-social elements and supporting the governments for all the rightful actions.
“A Child is an asset to the nation, so is the duty of the citizen to protect them”
1.Sarah Thomas de Benitaz(2009) “State of the World’s Street Children.” Retrieved 30/11/12
2. Olga Tellis Vs Bombay Municipal Corporation, P.No:85 SCC (3)545
3. Bandhar Mukthi Morelia Vs U.O.I 1984. SC.802
4. Black, 1993 UNICEF
5. W.H.O, 2002:1
6. Thomas de Benitz, 2007: Page No: 61
7. Prof.Vishnumurthy, “Law and Social Security in India” 2015, Page No: 231
8. NCLP Report 1709
9. Savita Bhakry, N.H.R.C, “Children in India and their rights”
10. N.H.R.C, “Children in India and their rights”, Page No: 706