//Street children deserve a better deal: rights panel

Street children deserve a better deal: rights panel

KOZHIKODE: The Kerala State Human Rights Commission Justice V.P.Mohan Kumar after visiting the centres for welfare of street children such as Freebirds in Kozhikode and Dreams in Kannur, has suggested measures which could be initiated so that these children have a respectable and content existence.

The recommendations of the panel to the Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala, comes after Mr. Mohan Kumar was convinced of the typical case of street children abandoned by negligent and indifferent parents, and who do not have the security of family life.

The recommendations are made by the panel in the exercise of powers conferred under Section 18(5) of the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, and communicated to the Government as required under Regulation 46 of the Kerala Human Rights Commission (Procedure) Regulation 2001.

After visiting Freebirds, the panel noted that the amenities provided to the children needed to be improved. The sum of Rs.8 paid by the Government a day for a child for food was grossly inadequate, the panel noted.

The panel suggested that the allowance be hiked to at least Rs.15, otherwise the children may not be in a position to make a decent living.

The need to educate the children who are used to freedom and power of money, on the dangers of living a vagrant life was highlighted by the Commission too in its report to the Government. For achieving this objective, the alternative life provided as an inmate of the hostel should be made attractive to the child, Mr.Mohan Kumar notes.

The derogatory manner in which street children are portrayed in hoardings and posters comes in for indictment, and the Commission stresses on the need to imbibe a sense of respectability to their existence.

The innate talent of the children as exhibited through the prizes and trophies won by them needed to be sustained too.

In a 15-point directive, the panel suggests the supply of a prescribed diet to inmates instead of paying a stipulated amount. It has suggested the setting up of a police mechanism to prevent children from roaming the streets begging under Section 63 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000. Begging in the street by displaying children should be banned, and made an offence under Sections 23 to 26 of the Act. The Government should provide an accessible mechanism to children, to make confidential complaints regarding physical or sexual harassment or violence by other elders, besides provide compulsory education and training for teachers who teach in institutions dealing with street children. The safety of these children, especially girls must be ensured, and there is urgent need to address the root cause of child labour.

The other suggestions include the need to monitor each admission to juvenile, special and observation homes, a compulsory directive that every inmate is taught a trade, and that a psychiatrist be associated with every institution.