Children's Day means precious little for these kids
New Delhi: November 14 is celebrated as Children's Day across the country, to show children how valued they are. However, the grim reality is that most children – especially those living in streets – are vulnerable to drug abuse and sexual harassment, which has left agencies and child rights bodies very concerned.
Pankaj and his friend Rohit (both names changed), 14 and 15, respectively, are ragpickers who celebrated Children's Day at an NGO. However, for these boys, their main concern is to fight the cold winter nights as they sleep on the streets. The duo collects discarded plastic bottles from trains.
"Due to dew in winter, our blankets get wet. It is tough to sleep at night. We have to burn rags, which give us some warmth," said Pankaj, adding that sometimes the money he and Rohit earn is stolen while they are asleep on the streets.
The boys claim they earn around Rs 150-200 rupees after selling the rag they pick. However, drug abuse remains a major concern, as many street children spend the hard-earned money to buy cheap inhalers.
Rita Singh, member, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), claimed in the beginning, kids take cheap drugs for excitement, but it soon turns into an addiction. These drugs, such as inhalers, are often given to them by peers.
Furthermore, many street children are vulnerable to sexual harassment. Recent findings of DCPCR claimed that 42 per cent of the accused in cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act, since January 2017, are neighbours of the children.
In seven per cent cases, blood relatives were involved. In six per cent cases, the culprits are extended family members; in 12 per cent cases, the accused is friends with or closely acquainted to the victims. The Delhi Police data claimed that till August 15, over 100 cases of POCSO was reported in which they have solved 84 cases whereas 86 persons have been arrested in this regard.
Jyoti Duhan Rathee, member DCPCR, told Millennium Post that children must be taken into confidence by parents and teacher to share their problems. "There should be no social stigma. Parents should come up to report crimes face by their children. They should also build confidence among them to say No to wrong things," said Rathee.
DCPCR chairperson Ramesh Negi told Millennium Post they have mapped areas in Delhi that are vulnerable for children and efforts are been taken to curb crime in these parts.
"We have linked around 8,000 children with Aadhaar cards, which will give them an identity," he said.