The state department of women and child development has decided to focus on street children and issues affecting their lives. The department has moved a proposal to create a special task force to look into the variety of issues plaguing kids who are forced to stay on streets.
The task force, comprising 10 to 12 people, will include representatives from the police, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), NGOs, BMC, doctors and the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. This comes following the detailed census study on the street children of Mumbai carried out by TISS and Action Aid India, a voluntary organisation.
Ujjwal Uke, secretary of the state women and child welfare department said the force is expected to start functioning by this month end. “We have been contemplating this for a while now as the number of street kids may be more than what has been estimated and they are the most vulnerable among the homeless,” he said.
The study, the first census on Mumbai’s street children had re-emphasised the vulnerability of the city’s street children in the city. According to it, there are 37,059 street children in the city, of which 25,406 are males and 10,748 are females.
Living in deplorable conditions, street kids have to dodge a multitude of issues in their fight for survival. What makes their journey difficult is their complete absence in policies.
There is no particular scheme in the state to cater specifically to street children. Nirja Bhatnagar, regional manager of Action Aid says the Integrated Child Protection Scheme and the ICDS, too, are not all-inclusive. “The street children have never been beneficiaries to these schemes, which so far haven’t been implemented properly,” she says.
“Even though a few NGOs run night shelters for such children, there haven’t been any state-level initiative to work exclusively for them,” said Shashikant Bhalerao, a social worker, who has been actively working with the city’s homeless.
The Supreme Court guidelines mandates every state create 24-hour shelters for homeless population in all cities with a population of more than five lakh at the rate of one shelter of 100 capacity per lakh of population. However, the judgment, too, doesn’t specify the need for separate night shelters for such children.
No life on streets, forgotten in policy
As per SC guidelines, states are required to create 24-hour shelters for homeless people in cities with a population of more than five lakh at the rate of one shelter of 100 capacity per lakh of population. However, the judgment doesn’t specify the need for separate night shelters for such street children.