• stumble
  • youtube
  • linkedin

Archives for : street children

Doctor, Doctor: Healthcare For The Homeless

By Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

He used to dress like a homeless person. On purpose. Two or three
nights a week, he’d rub dirt in his hair and clothes before walking
the dark streets of Pittsburgh searching for the very people he was
trying to impersonate. This was his way of connecting with those who
had been excluded from healthcare. Meet Dr Jim Withers, a.k.a. Street
Doctor, who has pioneered the concept of street medicine.

As Founder and Medical Director of Operation Safety Net, part of
Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and Trinity Health, he, along with his
staff and a band of volunteers, brings quality healthcare to the
homeless right where they live – under bridges and overpasses, in
alleys, and along the rivers. Says Dr Withers, “I was really shocked
[to see] how ill people were on the street. It was like [being
transported] to a third-world country. Young and old, people with
mental illness, runaway kids, women [who had] fled domestic violence,
veterans… and each one has their own story.”

For over 23 years now, Dr Withers has been treating the homeless. He
explains his reasons for taking this stand, “As a teaching physician,
I became convinced that we needed a new [kind of] ‘class room’ in
which we could more directly experience the reality of those who were
socially excluded from healthcare, and from society in general.”

In 1992, he began to dress as a homeless person and interact with
those living on the streets. “My guide was a formerly homeless man and
soon there were other volunteer nurses, medical students and formerly
homeless partners who joined in. Realising that a new healthcare
system was emerging [one that is more commercially oriented], I
developed services, including electronic records, case management, a
hospital consult service, a medical education curriculum and an
office, specifically for the homeless,” he says, adding, “Over time,
we have grown to become a significant street medicine programme
providing 24×7 coverage for all those who sleep on the streets. We
have brought people into [the ambit of] primary care, housed over
1,200 chronically homeless persons in the past 11 years, created a
severe weather shelter, introduced legal services and educated over
100 students per year. Not only are the lives of many being saved [as
part of this initiative], but we have been able to reduce the costs
incurred by emergency rooms and hospitals.” When Dr Withers had
started Operation Safety Net it was a very novel concept. However, he
had figured out that, as healthcare increasingly became a profit
driven profession, a programme like this would have the potential to
make a real difference.

Interestingly, it was his time spent in India, as a medical student in
the early 1980s and then again in the early 1990s, when he had the
opportunity to meet up with Mother Teresa in Kolkata, that opened his
mind to the idea of practicing medicine for the benefit of the masses.
“I have a deep connection with India. In early Eighties, I was
influenced greatly by a two-month medical school experience I had in
Mysore [Karnataka] during which I saw scores of female burn victims
coming into the Mission Hospital. They seldom had any visitors and
would not speak to anyone. I sensed an indescribable sadness in them.
Many eventually died. When I asked the attending physician about this
situation he told me these incidents happened because the stoves were
dangerous and the women’s saris caught fire. It was much later that I
discovered that in reality these women had been burnt for dowry by
their husbands’ families. What was even more shocking for me was the
fact that this was a common occurrence and that the attending had
chosen to misrepresent this appalling reality. During that time I had
ended up marrying a south Indian woman whose brother-in-law was a
judge. He was constantly called to take statements from dying women
who had been burnt. Almost never would they testify against their
husband. I never forgot this brutal domestic violence and it later
encouraged me to dedicate my medical career to those who suffer from
all forms of social injustice,” he shares candidly.

He came back to India in 1993 after he had started Operation Safety
Net to look up a Dr Jack Preger, who was doing similar kind of work in
Kolkata. “He had been doing this since 1979 and I wanted get a chance
to interact with him; learn from his experiences. But as I was on my
way to call on him, on a whim, I decided to take a slight detour to
Mother’s Home. At the door, I told the nuns the work I was trying to
do and about street medicine and asked if the administrator would be
able to take out time to meet me and share the work being done at
Mother’s Home. To my immense surprise they invited me to meet with
Mother Teresa! I was able to spend nearly an hour with her during
which I found her to be a brilliant and forward-looking woman. Even
though she was in her eighties, she did not dwell on the past, but was
focused on the future. Her clear commitment to her principles
reinforced my own values. I saw how sending a clear, simple moral
message could have a global impact. Street medicine, I believe, is
having that same kind of impact,” explains the good doctor who
received CNN’s Top Hero Award last year.

Talking about homeless women he shares that “the percentage of women
living on the streets in the US has gone up in the last two decades –
it’s nearly 30 per cent today. Most of them have experienced some form
of violence and the majority has actually escaped domestic violence”.
According to him, homeless women generally battle with “depression,
post traumatic stress disorder, mental illness and addictions”. “All
of these issues are inter-related and cannot be addressed in
isolation. By ‘going to the people’, street medicine allows us to
become a part of their lives and gain their trust. Relationships
forged among those living on the streets are very complicated. As a
rule, I never force anyone to do what I think they should but simply
provide them with a consistent, loving support system so that they can
reclaim their own self determination,” he points out.

Gender violence, Dr Withers believes, has multiple, far-reaching,
physical and emotional consequences on the survivors living on the
streets. He says, “Denial and silence are the real enemies in such
cases. Nonetheless, I have seen how reaching out can result in
positive action. I have a dear friend who went through a lot before
she was able to get her life back in order. Lois had a long history of
unstable living circumstances, violence by those she trusted and
homelessness. I was called in to see her one winter; she was sleeping
next to a church in the snow. From that freezing night when we rescued
her it took her a long time to first trust us enough to help her and
then to get back on her feet. Her recovery has been a remarkable
lesson to us all.”

Having firmly established the efficacy of his programme Dr Withers is
hopeful that he would be able to take it to countries, especially
India, where it can truly impact the lives of those in dire need of
assistance and competent medical care. “Having street medicine in
every community transforms us,” he says, “We begin to see that we’re
all in this together. You can’t solve difficult problems if you can’t
get close enough to see them. That’s why I insist on ‘going to the


Women Featrure Service –

Related posts

Bombay to Barcelona: Former street child’s autobiography is a hit around the world

Amin Sheikh, who grew up on the streets of Mumbai and in a shelter home, has written a book that will soon be translated in seven languages and published by Hachette in France.
Amin Sheikh wants to open his own coffee shop in Mumbai, one that also doubles as a library. It’s not an unusual dream for a young entrepreneur in the city. But for Sheikh, the venture would be the culmination of a long and difficult climb through life.

Sheikh, 34, has been a homeless child, a beggar, a ragpicker, a factory worker, a vendor on a train, a boot polisher, a tea-shop waiter, a newspaper delivery boy and doer of myriad other odd jobs, all before he turned 16. He has run his own newspaper vending business, worked as a household attendant with a family that came to adopt him and now operates his own one-man tourist cab company.

He is also the author of a self-published autobiography, titled Life is Life, I am Because of You, which was published in January 2013.

A year on, Sheikh’s book has attracted attention from across Europe and the US, with enthusiastic readers translating it into French, Spanish and Catalan, writing songs dedicated to him, getting him on Spanish radio shows and helping him find a mainstream publisher. Their aim, says Amin, is to help him launch his dream coffee shop that will employ only street children and be “open to all, rich or poor”.

“People from abroad are very helpful and have even stood on the streets with me to help sell my book,” said Sheikh, who has just returned home to Mumbai after a long trip to Barcelona where he was promoting his book. “Outsiders are often more ready to help than people in India.”

Since its launch, Sheikh has sold 8,000 copies of the book, mostly abroad, and has collected about 20% of the funds he will need for his coffee shop. Although the book is available on online stores like Amazon and iTunes, most of the sales have been through word-of-mouth and street vending, and led to readers emailing him with offers to help in various ways.

In the US, for instance, fashion designer Stephane Boss is selling a line of t-shirts whose proceeds will be donated to Sheikh’s coffee shop project. A Paris-based songwriter Arnaud Kerane, has written a song on Amin’s life that is available on iTunes and will be part of his debut album. In Spain, Sheikh’s book is being discussed in school classrooms and local radio stations.

“By the end of this year, the book will also be translated in Italian, German, Hebrew and Marathi, and none of the translators are charging me,” said Sheikh. At home in Mumbai, a group of media students have made a short film on the book and Sheikh’s life.

The most exciting development so far, however, is the fact that international publishing house Hachette has bought the rights of his book from its French publisher and will now print an edition in France. “This means I will start getting royalties,” said Sheikh.

Running away from home

Sheikh’s autobiography tells the brutal story of a boy who ran away from an abusive slum home when he was five, experienced several years of hunger, assault, sexual abuse and yet, a sense of freedom on the city streets, and who was finally rescued and brought to Snehasadan, a shelter home for children, along with his little sister.

He grew up there, studied up to Class 7, worked with a newspaper vendor and eventually found work at the home of Eustace Fernandes, an artist in Bandra. Fernandes treated Amin like a son, taught him English, helped him set up his cab service and even gifted him his first trip abroad – to Barcelona – on his birthday.

Many of the people who helped Sheikh publish and promote his book are tourists he had driven around the city in his tourist taxi and who eventually became his friends. While Sahir D’Souza – Fernandes’ neighbour and Sheikh’s teenaged friend – helped him write the book in English, the illustrations, layout and cover design were done for free by friends from Spain and France who want to see Amin’s coffee shop become a reality.

“My aim is to see a world where there are no street children,” said Sheikh, who plans to use the coffee shop business as a starting point to fund many other dreams, like launching an ambulance service that will serve remote Indian villages, and setting up a shelter home for older children who need support even after passing out of homes like Snehasadan.

“Some of my friends wonder why I don’t move out of India, but I need to stay in Mumbai where there are street children, so that I can work for them,” said Sheikh.

The name of his dream coffee shop, however, is a tribute to both his favourite cities. “The shop will be called Bombay To Barcelona.”

Read more here-’s-autobiography-is-a-hit-around-the-world

Related posts

Street Children – Salaam Mumbai – #Sundayreading


A report by ActionAid and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences highlights the vulnerability and tragic living conditions of thousands of children who take shelter in Mumbai’s streets. By ANUPAMA KATAKAM

IN 1988, the acclaimed film-maker Mira Nair made Salaam Bombay!, a poignantly revealing film on street children in Mumbai. The plot revolves around the protagonist, Krishna or “Chaipau”, who is kicked out of his home by his mother for having damaged his brother’s bicycle and is told he can come back only if he can make good the loss. He is abandoned by the travelling circus he joins. In desperation, he comes to Mumbai with nothing more than a few rupees and is robbed of it immediately. With nowhere to go and no one to help him, he lives on the streets. Abused and beaten, Krishna eventually finds protection under a drug pusher who finds him work as a tea boy. After a failed attempt at theft, Krishna lands in a juvenile centre. He escapes, but it is not a happy ending. Krishna goes back to the world of petty crime, drugs and prostitution hoping that he will return to his mother some day.

Twenty-five years hence not much has changed. A report titled “Making Street Children Matter”, based on a first-time census of street children in Mumbai conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and ActionAid, a non-governmental organisation, estimates that in 2013 there were 37,059 street children who continued to face the same brutality that Krishna witnessed. The census exposes the vulnerability and tragic living conditions of thousands of children who take shelter in the city’s streets.

It finds that almost 24 per cent of the children are illiterate; 15 per cent are addicted to drugs; 40 per cent have witnessed and/or experienced some form of abuse; and almost 24 per cent are engaged in activities such as begging, doing odd jobs, ragpicking and construction work.



The report brings out many disturbing facts on child labour, illiteracy, physical and sexual abuse, and forced starvation. The report, in its conclusion, states that it was “a very challenging exercise but worthwhile as it may have broken a few myths and raised some questions about the magnitude of the issue”.

It acknowledges that these problems can be traced to larger issues of poverty, unemployment, migration, discrimination, and so on. “After the 2011 Census data was released, we found that the urban population grew much more than the rural. Much of the population growth was due to distress migration, and people living on the streets were a result of this distress. Children on the streets are a structural problem and that spurred us to conduct this census,” said Alex George from ActionAid.

“The idea of a census is to present the hard numbers. The State often dismisses a sample survey saying it’s not indicative of a larger problem. A census they take seriously. The Maharashtra government has accepted our recommendations in toto,” he said.

“Mumbai being the commercial capital of the country, the findings from the study would help [us] understand processes of marginalisation of vulnerable groups in mega cities,” said Vijay Raghavan from the Centre of Criminology and Justice at TISS.

“Governments respond only when you show [them] a number. I believe this number is still conservative because we had to follow a certain methodology. But we captured the number to the extent we could. The recommendations emerging from the study need to be taken forward by the government and civil society through advocacy efforts,” he said.

The methodologyRaghavan explained that a quantitative research design was adopted for the study. It had two parts: a census and a sample survey of 728 children. The first part included a headcount of street children living in Mumbai as per the most widely used United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) definition of street children. UNICEF classifies street children under three categories: (i) children who run away from their families and live on their own; (ii) street working children who spend most of their time on the streets fending for themselves but return home on a regular basis; and (iii) street family children who live on the streets with their families.

A tool was designed to secure details such as age, sex, category of the child vis-a-vislocation, health status, education, disability and addiction. The survey was based on structured interviews that sought information about socio-economic status, education, work, and family background. This was crucial in understanding the reasons for children living on the streets and made the report comprehensive, said Raghavan. Because of the nature of this population, the census had to be conducted very quickly. Close to 100 enumerators had to fan out across the metropolis and do the headcount within three days. If there was a gap, the chances of a double count would occur as the children moved constantly, said Raghavan.



A total of 36,154 children were found across 25 wards of Mumbai and another 905 children were found along the city’s railway tracks, taking the overall total to 37,059. The highest number of street children—2,802 (7.75 per cent)—were found in S-Ward; D-Ward was next, with 2,312 (6.39 per cent).

The report says there is a direct correlation between the political economy of the wards and the population of street children. For instance, the two most populated wards are mostly commercial areas with a bustling, robust informal economy such as marketplaces, railway lines, bus depots, construction sites and places of worship.

It says that almost 65 per cent of the children lived with families on the street. The next largest group was street working children, at 24 per cent. About 8 per cent of the children lived on the street by themselves, which makes them the most vulnerable category, says the report.

The highest number of children on the streets was in the age group between 16 and 18 years. It notes that the number of girls decreased as the age of respondents increased. The reasons for this are that the girls were either married off young or trafficked, or pushed into exploitative relationships.

Data show that almost 24 per cent of the children were illiterate. Of the 5,467 children counted between the ages of four and six, only 1,724 children went to balwadis. Twenty-two per cent of the children had studied up to Class 3 and 20 per cent up to Class 7.

Obviously, occupation was a sensitive topic given that child labour is illegal; however, the enumerators were able to gather enough data on this count, too. The report finds that 11.5 per cent of the children sold flowers, newspapers and fruit on the street; 9 per cent worked in eateries; 7.9 per cent begged; 5.5 per cent were ragpickers; 2.5 per cent worked in construction; and 2.5 per cent did small jobs such as playing in wedding bands, basket-making, household work, loading, polishing shoes, ironing, tailoring and selling scrap.

According to the report, the living conditions of almost all the children were subhuman. While some found night shelters run by NGOs, many lived near garbage dumps, sewerage pipelines, open gutters, railway and bus stations, parks/gardens and shops, on beaches, under flyovers, and at places of tourism.

Obviously, health was a critical factor and while the census did not conduct medical examinations, enumerators observed that several children were unwell, had bruises or just looked unhealthy. Nearly 2.55 per cent of the children suffered from some disability and most of these children begged for a living.

A shocking 15 per cent of the children were addicted to drugs, whitener, tobacco, polish and similar substances that are cheap yet dangerous. Enumerators, in fact, found it difficult to approach several children who were clearly addicts and it required patience and persistence to arrive at these numbers.



Mumbai’s local railway, also known as the city’s lifeline, has been home to thousands of street children and the homeless almost since it was built. The census found 905 children on the platforms, with many working through a well-oiled system—begging or selling sundry items. For instance, they would never be seen during peak hours as that is when vigilance of the authorities is at the highest. Those who worked on the western line would not work the other lines.

TISS and ActionAid interviewed 728 children for a detailed sample survey in order to get a clearer picture. These are some of facts that emerge from the survey:

Around 52.2 per cent of the respondents were found on footpaths and traffic signals. Mirroring the census findings, the survey data show that 61.5 per cent of the children resided with their families on the streets, 24.2 per cent did not live with their families but had contact with them, and 6.9 per cent had no contact with their families.

It finds that 69.6 per cent of the children earned an income, while the rest did not. Most often, work was done in exchange for food and shelter.

Hunger was one of the most disturbing realities, says the study. Having no money for food was the most cited reason for 72.2 per cent of the children who missed meals.

Another was abuse. According to the survey, 44.1 per cent of the children reported that they had seen or heard of their peers being abused. The nature of abuse recorded by the enumerators included torture, beatings, forced starvation and sexual abuse. One child told the interviewer that owing to the lack of space to sleep, there would often be fights at night which attracted police attention. The police would chase them away from the area and they would have to sleep in the open and expose themselves to all manner of abuse.

The survey explores the reasons for children being on the streets and whether they have knowledge of or contact with their families. It finds that 88.5 per cent of the children were aware of their place of origin. However, 50.8 per cent indicated that they had landed on the streets owing to disturbed home conditions, 15.8 per cent came in search of jobs or to pursue dreams, including that of joining the film industry. Around 7.7 per cent indicated they had run away and another 11 per cent indicated their parents had sent them away. Abuse, violence, poverty and hunger, kidnapping, getting lost and natural calamities were other reasons given for reaching Mumbai’s streets.

Field notes


Apart from the numbers that reveal a crisis, the report also weaves in heart-wrenching field notes from surveyors. Here are a few samples: “Shouting and verbal abuse are an everyday occurrence.” “Some children said they had been brought from their village to study but were made to work here.” “Dharavi had many children who work in the night and go to school in the morning.” “Saw children working in marriage halls.” “Many were working in shops but the owners would not let us talk to them.” “One asked us if he gave up ragpicking could we get him a proper job.” “Some children were sorting stuff out of garbage which they would sell as scrap.” “I saw a group of boys injecting some drug into their body and they were doing it fearlessly. They looked blank when they saw me.” “One woman said the police pick up children and send them to the ‘chiller room’—children’s home.”

Here is a sampling of what some of the children said to the field workers: “I want a place to sleep.” “If father does not sell balloons, children go hungry.” “If father does not find work, we sleep hungry. Many times we sleep hungry.” “I am a ragpicker since five years. Father is jobless and alcoholic, so we beg and give money to mother. Some of our money goes into using public toilets.”

RecommendationsAs per the directions of the Supreme Court in 2001, State governments have to construct 24-hour shelters for homeless populations in all cities with a population of more than five lakh at the rate of one shelter with a capacity of 100 per one lakh population. Mumbai, with 140 lakh people, has just two, analysts said.

The report recommends increasing the number of night shelters, at least for children. It wants the Government of Maharashtra and its relevant departments to take charge of areas such as education, health, addiction, labour and abuse. It says the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) must constitute a task force involving the Department of Labour, the police, the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, and NGOs to devise a comprehensive strategy to address issues regarding street working children.

With regard to abuse, it suggests forming special juvenile police units and a mapping exercise of locations where street children are more vulnerable. The Crime Branch, along with social workers, should patrol the streets and reach out to these children instead of chasing them away. It appeals to the railway authorities to sensitise its employees and handle the issue in a humane manner.

It also wants the setting up of a State inter-department committee to review and monitor existing laws, policies and programmes for the vulnerable and the marginalised ones. This should be chaired by the Chief Secretary and meet at least once in six months, it says.

In 2008, Danny Boyle won eight Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire, a film based on street children, though with a plot different from Mira Nair’s. We felt strongly for the celluloid characters. Yet, in reality, when that little boy attempts to sell some flowers at the traffic signal, we turn him away.

Read more here —


Enhanced by Zemanta

Related posts

#India – More than 37,000 children on streets in Mumbai , exposed to abuse #humanrights

Home truths, out in the open

Sukanya Shantha : Mumbai, Wed Dec 04 2013,
Pic- courtesy

Once Ammu hops into a 6:43 am train from Thane railway station, she spends a good five hours selling fancy accessories in the ladies’ second-class compartment. She changes trains every two-three stations until she reaches CST station. From there she boards a train back to Thane. Barely seven, and unaware of her constitutional rights to education, home and shelter, Ammu carries a bulky 15-kg bag on her head and shuttles alone in the crowded trains. To call a home, she has a tin-shed under a flyover at Vikhroli and for a family, she has a minor sister, married when she was around 12, now with a three-month baby, already separated from her drunkard husband.Like Ammu, there are at least 37,459 children dodging dangerous terrains and living on the streets, and in most cases, fending for themselves, according to a study by the Centre for Criminology and Justice (CCJ) department of the Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TISS).

Several NGOs, enumerators and volunteers too worked with TISS to prepare the report, which can be said to be the first such detailed and comprehensive census on the city’s street children.

The report which focuses on the socio-economic, education, work and family background of the children, attempts to understand why they live on the streets. The enumerators visited all 24 wards in the city along the three railway lines Central, Western and Harbour. A group of over 75 enumerators worked in each ward for two days over a period of three weeks.

A quantitative research reveals that one out of every four enumerated children has never been to school. Of the others enumerated, a mere two per cent have managed to study till Class X or above. “While studying the data, we found that while 25 per cent have remained illiterate, another 75 per cent have had some sort of education. With nearly 60 per cent living with their families on the street, most have been enrolled at a near by municipal school or at least in an informal NGO set-up. It is interesting to discover that children and their families have tried to access education, but for want of any infrastructure and government support, a majority dropped out,” says Asha Mukundan, a TISS professor who was a part of the study.

While the children could not manage access to any structural shelter space, an immediate relief would be in the form of night shelter to the children and providing educational facilities in these night shelters, Mukundan adds.

Having no shelter, exposed to abuse

In fact, the Juvenile Justice Act requires every child to be protected and given shelter. This is also one of the many recommendations the report makes, besides demanding stronger commitment and urgency from the state and the central government towards the issue of street children and their problems.

Varsha Gaikwad, Minister for Women and Child Welfare, says she would re-look into the child policies and make provisions for shelter homes. “The state government will try and make better health facilities available for street children. All recommendations made in the report are accepted and we would try and work on them,” she says.

The study states that one out of four children has experienced physical, sexual and verbal abuse in varied degrees. While the enumerators based their findings purely on the information provided by the children, experts say it could be grossly under-evaluated. “In our experiences of working with children, we have seen almost each child has been abused. From physical assaults to sexual, it’s a part of these children’s lived experiences,” says Arokia Mary from NGO YUVA and member of the state’s Juvenile Justice Board.

The study marks a change in trend over the past few years. While the earlier concentration of homeless and migrants was towards Mumbai, it has dramatically shifted to suburban areas. “Mumbai city has stagnated. Also, the construction works in the city are carried out by big developers. Pockets of Navi Mumbai and Thane, which have seen a dramatic boom in real estate business, employ child labour,” Mukundan says. This is also one of the many reasons for a relatively conservative number of children available at the time of the study, she says.

With its initial estimation of at least one lakh street children, the survey report expresses surprise on finding less than 40,000 children. “Several blasts and security threats have made most areas like railway stations, which earlier saw a concentrated population of homeless, beyond their reach,” said Alex George from Action Aid, India, which partnered in the study.

The report categorically marks out November 26, 2008, terror attack as one of the reasons that forced homeless families and street children to leave the city. “Many are shooed out of the areas which provided them shelter for years. The homeless would take shelter outside railway stations, bus depots and big showrooms. But as the city has become a terror target, they are no more allowed to live. While the state ensured that homeless do not squat on the street, they have not followed the Supreme Court’s guidelines to provide night shelters,” says Mary.

While the Supreme Court has directed the state to provide a shelter home for every one lakh population, Maharashtra has remained non-committal.

The SC has also appointed High Court judges to monitor all shelter homes in the city. Justice V M Kanade of Bombay High Court says he will personally look into the conditions of shelter homes and a report will be periodically sent to the state government. “This report will help street children get a legal status and identity,” Justice Kanade said during the release of the TISS report.

A separate census needed for homeless kids<\b>

The report acknowledges that the figure of approximately 40,000 children is highly conservative. Still it is higher than what was claimed by the government in its 2011 census data.

According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), 35,408 people were found to be living on the street at the time of the counting on the night of February 28, 2011. “It is grossly underplayed,” Mukundan claims.

Professor Vijay Raghvan of CCJ, TISS, says, “There is a pressing need to have a separate census on just the homeless children as they have clearly been missed out in every nature of government enumeration.”

Puncturing a few myths, the report claims that though most children with disabilities were born with it, a sizable population acquired it during road accidents, abuse or illness. Another relates to drug abuse. According to the data collated, as many as 15 per cent were seen with apparent substance abuse which could be ink, whitener, boot polish or even drugs. “It is an observation-based enumeration. In most cases, substance abuse is seen as a way to fight cold and hunger. It is in most cases a reaction to fight the existential conditions,” George says.

Unlike popular perception, most of the homeless are not runaway kids. “They live on the street with their families or a peer group. Only eight per cent live by themselves, an indicator that the children and their families in most cases are pushed to living in inhuman conditions on the street,” Raghavan says.

Here too, the ratio of girls and boys is skewed. The percentage of girls is almost 50 less than that of boys. And it grows steeper as the kids grow. “That could be attributed to child marriage. Most girl children are married off at tender ages of 10 and 12. Human trafficking could be another reason for this. Lack of security pushes the families to send their daughters back to their native places. Safety is the primary concern,” he adds.

A caste-wise segregation shows that as high as 42 per cent of such children fall under the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and denotified tribes category. This, too, could be an underestimation, owing to the fact that over 41 per cent were clueless about their castes.

Mary points out that most girl children, who are out on their own, also prefer to be seen with a male partner. “That gives them a sense of safety, although it does not necessarily mean they are secure. They are, in fact, exploited more in such relations,” says Mary, adding that these cases are regularly brought to the NGO and Juvenile Justice Board’s notice.

The report has concentrated only on the street kids living without any shelter on the pavements, scattered around the city. De-notified and notified slums have been left out of the enumeration.

“The report is based on the homeless, street children. This also is applicable to other children living in the slums, both notified and de-notified,” says George.

Aastha Prakash also contributed to the story

Read more here-

Enhanced by Zemanta

Related posts