COVID-19: Children on streets at higher risk of infection

New Delhi: As the pandemic continues to rage on here with no other option for making money for their survival, many homeless children are found selling articles or found involved in begging on the streets of Delhi which enhances the risk of infection for these children. In more than 50 such places in the National Capital, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) found that children were either selling articles or were begging.

According to an official, in some cases, they saw women carrying babies and were begging at different traffic signals and streets. "Children do not know from whom they are taking money or food on the streets. They are at risk of getting infected by the virus," the official said. The child rights body has now written to all government agencies including the Delhi Police, District Magistrates, Child Welfare Committees to identify such children and plan their rescue operation and rehabilitation.

The letter reads, "Lot of children can be seen begging or selling articles in different areas of Delhi especially on red lights after the Unlock 1.0 phase. Such children are forced to work by adults robbing them of their rights."

"The Commission understands the restraints upon officials owing to the current nationwide pandemic. However, seeing the severity of the matter involving the lives of innocent children and their future, this must be taken on a priority basis," it read. The child rights body asked government officials to identify children engaged in begging and develop a comprehensive plan for rehabilitating them.

According to the commission, in more than 50 places, they found children on the streets. "In areas like Connaught Place, Ring Road, Kalkaji, Ramprastha Colony, KKD Metro Station, GTB hospital crossing, Adhchini red light, Modi Mill flyover, nearly 20 children each were found on streets," one official added. ITO, Azadpur, Ghazipur, Outer Delhi were also among areas where children were seen on streets.

Roop Sudesh Vimal, member DCPCR said that they suspect more than 500 children were on the streets and that this was a very serious situation. "They can get affected by the virus and they may become carriers," he said.

The lockdown has had a harsh impact on children with an economically weak background. According to an official, there are many families who were employed in small-time jobs and have suffered a lot, making them prone to pushing their children on the streets to sell articles that bring in some money.

"Malnutrition, no education, their parents getting unemployed this lockdown has seriously affected the children. Many families who beg on streets do not talk and in some cases, they leave the place and beg somewhere else," the official said.

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