More than 9,000 children in Mumbai go hungry every day and almost an equal number of them has never seen a school. And the first-ever census of street children has revealed that more than 37,059 kids live on the streets of this maximum city.
The census also explains how the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, which ensures education for every child between 6 and 14 years of age, is just a farce.
The findings of the census conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Action Aid India were released on Tuesday. Over 100 enumerators did the head count between November 2012 and February 2013.
The enumeration report ‘Making street children matter’ found 36,154 children living on streets across all the 24 wards in the city. In addition, 905 children live on platforms and trains in Mumbai.
The researchers say that for Mumbai 37,059 is an unexpectedly low number. “This could be because of the greater surveillance following the 26/11 terror attack which would have forced them to take shelter in neighbouring cities,” points out the report.
Mentioning the vulnerability of these children, the report states: “More than 15% of them are addicted to tobacco, whitener or shoe polish. Many of them have experienced physical, verbal and sexual abuse.”
The report highlights the need to set up shelters for the homeless people as per the 2001 Supreme Court (SC) directions. The SC guideline says that there should be at least one such shelter with the capacity to accommodate 100 for every one lakh population in cities with five lakh or more population.
“School education department, social justice department and women and child development department should examine their existing schemes and do their best to identify these invisible beneficiaries,” states the report.
Meanwhile, the state government has drafted a ‘Child policy’ which says that every child would be the government’s responsibility and hence would get a shelter home, education, health care and protection.
AN Tripathi, secretary of the Child Rights Commission, who was part of the committee which drafted the policy, says, “The policy includes destitute children staying on streets, under bridges, temporary hutments, construction sites, near beaches, parks etc.” The policy awaits the cabinet’s nod.