Street children from India ask the UN to secure their rights

Of the 18 million children living on the streets in Inida, Mumbai has 37,059

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There are some 18 million children living on the streets in India, according to data compiled by UNICEF (2000). Fifty four of them, along with a collective of some 14 civil society organisations from India and Nepal, met with officers of the UN Convention on Child Rights (UNCRC) this week in New Delhi to put forward their demands their rights and their protection, as the UNCRC drafts its General Comment for the rights of street children.

The General Comment on Children in Street Situation will be put out in 2017, and so far there have been 18 General Comments made by the UNCRC, key pieces of international law on children's rights, laying out member-state governments' obligations under the UNCRC.

Mumbai alone has 37,059 children who live on the brutal streets of Mumbai, according to the first ever census of street children conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

The demands were basic. The children asked for protection on the streets, shelters to sleep in at night to get off the streets, alternative ways of employment and income for their families so that they don't depend on the streets for livelihood; counselling and rehabilitation for broken families. They spoke about the homes they're often forced into, asking for better places, a better education beyond just basic literacy to be introduced in these homes. Not all of them literate, they communicated with their audience through role-plays and skits.

However, as Tushar Anchal of Plan India, one of the organisers of the consultation, told dna, these demands are so far unfulfilled by the state. The procedures exist but they don't reach the children. He said that the government approximately spends Rs 2000 per child per month in these homes, but this doesn't reach the ground situation. There has to be better utilisation of that money.

According to Anchal, the response from the government representatives at the consultation, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights was positive, as the chairperson Stuti Kackar talked about the policies formulated by the Indian government so far -- Integrated Child Protection Scheme' which encompasses street children in need of care and protection and 'National Plan of Action for Street Children -- and the work that has to be done on them. According to Plan India, national policies so far have failed as they don't take into account the views of the children themselves, hence this platform to bring them into contact with government and UN representatives.

However, Anchal did admit that the commission could not speak for the concerned union ministry, of women and child development.

India is one of the few countries that the UNCRC officials are going to, as its population dictates that it has the highest number of children in street situations. As Anchal said, if the previous 18 comments of the UNCRC were to be followed there would be no need for added action. Since governments have been lacking in implementation of policies, Mr. Gehad Madi, Member, UNCRC Committee & Advisory Board told the press that, "Developed By the UN's highest authority on children's right, the general comments lay out for the first time what the governments must do to respect children's rights under international law. These Recommendations will prove to be a powerful tool to promote street children's rights."

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