The Chief Justice of the Meghalaya High Court, Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice S R Sen has taken note of the urgency of the abandoned children as witnessed during the night, with limited resources due to poverty stricken families who are braving the cold as footpath dwellers, while during day time they are working as vendors while marking that they too have the rights for minimum protection.
The High Court (HC) was responding to the Suo Motu moved by Khroo Lamsalanki Pariat, who is demanding night shelter houses for these people, starting from Shillong, Jowai and Tura.
In the past such street kids did demand the Right of Identity since 2014 and the Indian National Congress (INC) had contemplated including the demands of street children in the party election manifesto.
A delegation which included 16-year-old Chandni, who leads the ‘Badhte Kadam’ programme of NGO Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA), had met Congress leaders Mukul Wasnik and G. Mohan Gopal, both members of the manifesto drafting committee and presented a charter of demands.
The demands included right of identity, ensuring participation in government schemes, inclusion in census, consultations with street children twice a year and strict implementation of laws related to children.
It is perhaps for the first time the street children in Delhi will be able to feel they are part of a society which has been snatched away by circumstances. It is time for all political parties to extend their help to this section of the society by showing them ways to be a proud Indians who can contribute to the growth of the nation.
In Meghalaya, where the affluent kids are having the feel of their new school uniforms, books, and other accessories for school, the underprivileged children are seen in every nook and corner of the state capital selling Meghalaya Government calendars. Normally, these groups of children are either vending betel nuts, popularly known as Kwai in native language, or selling bookmarks.
Along with the rest of the world, Shillong also observes International Day for Street Children on April 12, 2013 on the theme: Demand a Day. The day was started in 2011 by the Consortium for Street Children and, whilst it is celebrated across the world by children on the streets and street child organizations, it is not yet recognized by the UN as an official day.
Meghalaya in recent years is growing in all spectrums, so also the increase in number of street children, hailing from different castes and creed. Most prominent are the rag pickers, beggars who are sniffing intoxicating substances openly. As mentioned, yet other categories are bookmark sellers, vendors for kwai and cigarette, also seasonal fruits or working in restaurants and tea stalls. Most from this section are bread winners for their family. Yet another section is the homeless children. A huge number of children were also working in coal and limestone mining. Only a select few have a roof above them in the orphanage homes in the state.
The nation talks about banning child labour, here in the state of Meghalaya the circumstances are quite different from the rest. Here, most of the street children are the victim of circumstances due to broken or single parent family. Very few are forced to the streets due to poverty. Yet many children are still away from school, and they are being mentally and physically abused day in and day out as the authorities and the society remain mute spectators.
It is not at all difficult to pull the street children off the streets, but how will the authorities rehabilitate them is the million dollar question. As most of them are the bread winners of their respective families, their meager daily income is the meal for the day for the entire family. Neither the state has shelter homes for such children. What right does the government have to ban child labor in Meghalaya? Once the government can work out some schemes for such children, they can be easily be sent back to school for formal education and some vocational training to make them self employable.
At the moment, unreported abuse to such children is rampant. The street children are being picked up by abusers to satisfy their sexual needs from various points during the night and returned to the streets the day.
These children too have their dignity which should be respected. The Non Governmental Organizations and likeminded citizens should lend their voice to this section of the society whose childhood has been snatched away either due to broken families, teenage pregnancy and some due to poverty.
As the world Demands a Day for such children who are a part of our society, the Meghalaya government too should feel sympathy to them, put them back to school which can provide them a meal, at the same time teach them a trade which can help them earn a living and support the family members. As the theme for the year, they too can have a day of their own; as they had never opted for such a life, but have rather been forced into it due to circumstances.
If the state government can just provide them a better shelter home and bring back a smile on their faces, it will be the greatest blessing. Let us all join hands to provide such street children a day of their own, for their Right of Identity more than just providing them a Night Shelter.