85,000 children are living and working on the streets in India representing 1.25% of the total child population, found a 2016 five-city survey titled ‘Life on the Streets’. This indicates that there are a staggering 2 million children on the streets of India living in abject deprivation of the most basic rights. The study also found that over 80% of the children living in street situations have no form of a legal identity document, denying them access to social entitlements initiated by state and central governments, such as free and compulsory education, health insurance, and skill development. As a consequence, more than 69% of children on streets are working and about 80% of their earnings are spent on buying food.
“It’s just not right that 79% of street children live without a legal identity, which denies them access to the most basic human rights like healthcare and education. Getting an identity proof is the starting point for them to access essential services and make a better life for themselves. And this is not the responsibility of the Government or NGOs alone. We all, as members of society, are required to contribute at our end so that they can have better living conditions and equal opportunities” said actress Dia Mirza, Artist Ambassador, Save the Children.
Through #TheInvisibles project, Save the Children plans to provide Aadhaar I-cards to these 2 million children in the country with over 80,000 kids across the cities of Mumbai, Nasik and Pune in Maharashtra alone. Street children living around Mumbai Central are set to get identity cards following a successful Aadhaar camp held by this social enterprise.
106 street children were registered to get Aadhaar cards at an enrollment camp, in collaboration with Mumbai City Collector office, Hamara Foundation and Salaam Balak Trust, was held at Gilder Lane Municipal School, in the presence of Mirza, with support from Dr. Padamshri Bainade, Deputy Collector, Mumbai City.
The SoP for Care and Protection of Children in Street Situations, lays down a sequence of actions to be taken for restoration and rehabilitation of street children, which includes getting them Aadhaar cards, health insurance, bank accounts and financial sponsorship for families to help them meet medical and nutritional requirements. Said Bidisha Pillai, CEO, Save the Children, “We plan to roll out a similar implementation of the SoP and have an Aadhaar card drive across six states of Telangana, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi and Bihar.”
These early wins are steps in the right direction towards achieving the larger goal of ensuring that the needs of children in street situations are included in government policies and programmes in order to include them in mainstream society.