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I woke up today morning, plans swirling in the mind. What should I plan for the kids, how can I make their day special? I packed their favorite snack in their tiffins, dressed one as Spidey and the other as a Pirate…. off they ran to school.  Later, maybe a nice evening spent at a soft play area, some balloons followed by pizzas and pastas at their favorite restaurant! Oh yes! That will make it perfect. After all, it is Children’s Day! And my kids should have a special one.

Once the kids were back from school, we quickly changed and headed out for the evening. Our first stop was Naturals Ice cream. After considerable thought and tasting, they both decided to settle for Mango flavor. I bought two extra ice creams to their surprise. Their eyes grew wide with glee…. but to their disappointment…

There was a boy, maybe 10 or so, begging nearby. I handed one to the confused but joy- stricken boy. My older son asked why we were giving him ice cream. As usual, my answer was because he doesn’t have a Mumma who will buy one for him. The second one I handed to a little three-year old girl who was sitting with her mother and older sister, selling balloons. The mother snatched it from her hand and by the look on her face, I knew she was going to make sure the three of them shared the ice cream. This time my son was a little upset. Why should I buy an ice cream for those kids if they have a Mumma? I replied, because their Mumma doesn’t have the money. He couldn’t grasp what I was saying, but wasn’t too happy that the second serving which he and his brother could have enjoyed, was given to some random kids.

As I sat in the car, there was this nagging feeling somewhere. As though something didn’t feel right. An acquaintance had requested me a few days ago to write about a campaign she had undertaken with a few other like-minded people. Due to some reason or the other, I had just not had the time. But it was a cause for which I should have made time. Do read up about it https://waic.in

Who are all these children we see on the streets every day? Why are they begging, selling ridiculous toys or working in odd joints? Why are they not in shelters or homes? Why are they not up for adoption?

These children are obviously orphaned or abandoned by parents or caregivers who cannot afford to raise them. They end up on the streets in the various cities of our country, carrying out odd jobs in the unorganized sector in inhuman conditions. Unfortunately, many of them land up in the hands of racketeers and are forced into begging, human trafficking, drug trafficking and other illicit trades.  Why are they not finding their way to shelters or adoption agencies?

The number of these children is mind-boggling. There are about 25 to 30 million such children. Only 0.25 to 0.50 children make their way to shelters, many of which are unsafe as we have read in the Muzaffarpur Orphanage case recently. Of these half a million kids, only about 2000 children reach the legal adoption pool, many of whom are differently abled and are not adopted easily.

How have we come to this situation as a country? Till when can we ignore the most needy and vulnerable section of our society? For how long are we going to turn away our eyes from the little children we see at every traffic signal and road-side restaurant and puncture repair shop? Why is their presence at these locations not gnawing at our minds?

It is time we asked some serious questions of ourselves, our government and our system. The political and bureaucratic indifference and lack of concern towards our country’s homeless children needs to end. The government bodies need to take responsibility of and know they are answerable for these defenseless children and their futures. There should be enough shelters and orphanages to protect and provide for them. These homes should provide decent food, clothing, education and medical assistance apart from safety and security to the children. They should aim at equipping every child to make him/her independent and self-reliant in the long run.

The number of children who make it to the adoption agencies needs to increase considerably. 2000 out of 30 million is a shockingly dismal low figure. There are enough couples who are interested in adopting, but the process is a slow and cumbersome one and many people tend to give up because it takes up to two years to adopt a child. This process needs to be streamlined and the bureaucracy around it curtailed. Also, the adoption agencies need to ensure they find genuine and safe families for every child. The goal of every agency involved should be to find a loving and caring family for each child.

Finally, each of us needs to ask the question, “How Can I Help These Vulnerable Children”? Maybe by contributing our time, our money, adopting a child if that works for us, sponsoring children without adopting if that suits us, spending time at orphanages on a weekly basis, contributing our skills to shelters like reading to the children or taking up their math or doing the accounts for the shelter, working with NGOs involved in this cause, and so many more ways. We all can choose what suits us best and contribute accordingly.

But the one thing we all can and must do, is raise our voice against the injustice towards these 25-30 million children and lack of interest and willingness by government bodies to fix these issues. We all need to demand clear and concrete action from our politicians and government to ensure these helpless children find a safe and secure environment to grow and nurture in and at the least, get a decent shot at life. Let’s commit to make it a Happy Children’s Day for all the children of India.

Aditi Munot is a blogger

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