The juvenile justice system has been ineffective in safeguarding the rights of around 500,000 street-dwelling children in the capital, representatives of the child welfare committees (CWCs) and police said Saturday.
Lamenting that the condition of such children had not improved despite implementation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, Neera Malik, CWC chairperson at west Delhi’s Nirmal Chhaya complex, said: “23 years ago, there were 45,000 children on the capital’s streets. Now, there are as many as 5 lakh and their condition has not improved at all.
“…The main problem that we have to face in rehabilitation of the children that come to the CWC is the lack of political will towards addressing the root causes for the plight of these children, such as lack of employment facilities for the parents and education facilities for children in their home areas.”
Malik was speaking at a workshop organised by child rights organisations — the Childhood Enhancement Through Training and Action (Chetna) and the Consortium for Street Children — to examine the successes and failures of the Juvenile Justice Act.
The landmark act provides a framework for the protection, treatment and rehabilitation of children under juvenile justice system and is considered a very progressive legislation but its implementation remains a concern.
“Most of the street children usually come from dysfunctional or abusive families. In such cases, just sending them back home, is not a solution without addressing the family issues,” said Kamla Lekhwani, CWC chairperson at north Delhi’s Rohini.
Lekhwani said such children often returned to the streets, and malpractices such as substance abuse and theft also made their rehabilitation difficult.
“Returning to the streets, these children often turn to malpractices such as theft and substance abuse. Especially, the abuse of whitener fluid, is rampant in these children,” she added.
CWC chairperson from south Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar, Raj Mangal Prasad said: “Most of these centers do not have the any drug rehabilitation capacities. They usually turn down the street children claiming that they have bad influence on other children living there.”
Senior officials from the Delhi Police were also present at the discussion and put forward their own perspectives on the issue.
“The basic issue that drives children out of their homes is deprivation, and since the facilities at the NGOs and childrens’ homes are usually better than those at their homes, the children often leave home again and return to such institutions,” Shibesh Singh, deputy commissioner of police-3rd battalion, said, emphasising the need for restoration of the street children to their families.