• India
  • Apr 26

Explainer / Rehabilitation of Children in Street Situations (CiSS)

The Supreme Court directed all state governments and Union Territories (UTs) to implement the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), prepared by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), for the care and protection of Children in Street Situations (CiSS).

Children in Street Situations

• The term “street child”, used by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1994, was developed in the 1980s to describe “any girl or boy...for whom the street (in the broadest sense of the word, including unoccupied dwellings, wasteland, etc.) has become his or her habitual abode and/or source of livelihood, and who is inadequately protected, supervised or directed by responsible adults.” 

At that time, “street children” were categorised as: 

i) Children on the street, who worked on the street and went home to their families at night; 

ii) Children of the street, who lived on the street, were functionally without family support but maintained family links; or 

iii) Abandoned children who lived completely on their own. 

• The terminology has continued to evolve to recognise children as social actors whose lives are not circumscribed by the street. 

• Human Rights Council Resolution refers to children working and/or living on the street, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child has adopted the term ‘Children in Street Situations (CiSS)’, recognising that children engage in numerous activities on the street and that if there is a “problem”, it is not the child but rather the situations in which s/he finds her/himself. 

Conditions of Children in Street Situations

• Children in Street Situations (CiSS) are one of the most vulnerable categories of human beings who survive on streets without any safety net. They are the first in sight in any major city, but are the last to be reached out under any programme or services.

• Big metropolitan cities have a higher presence of CiSS who have migrated from other states, whereas in the smaller cities, CiSS are mostly from the same state. Search for employment, slum displacement and poverty of the household are important triggers for migration of children to the city.

• Rag-picking is the most commonly cited livelihood option of CiSS. Other survival strategies are begging, hawking/street vending and working at roadside stalls. 

• Most street-connected children have to work daily. Long working hours, drudgery and exhaustion are the reasons for these children to get attracted to drugs. A substantial proportion of the children spend a part of their earnings on drugs and intoxicants. 

• Education is an important part in the life of children for their development. However, education is missing in the lives of CiSS. They are out of school and spend most of their time working in an inhuman environment.

• The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows that the rate of crime against children is increasing day by day, which is indeed a serious concern. Apart from crime against children, the issue of missing children is another indicator for deteriorating state of affairs pertaining to children. 

• Injury and illness are common among the street-connected children. Diarrhoea/loose motion, viral fever and food poisoning are common illnesses that are caused and aggravated by consumption of unsafe drinking water, lack of personal hygiene and open defecation.

• Most of the street-connected children are vulnerable to emotional, physical and sexual abuse due to lack of secure shelter and adult care. 

Constitutional provisions for children

Constitutional provisions for children, provided under the Constitution of India, are affected/contravened when a child is found in street situations. 

These provisions are:

Article 14: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

Article 15(3): Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.

Article 21: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

Article 21(A): The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.

Article 23(1): Traffic in human beings and beggary and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.

Article 24: No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.

Article 38(1): The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of  national life.

Article 39: The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing…(e)…the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.

Article 39(f): ...Children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.

Article 45: The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.

Standard Operating Procedure for protection of CiSS

• National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) as per its mandate has developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 2.0 for Care and Protection of Children in Street Situations to create a convergence among the various functionaries, institutions/agencies, government of India schemes and policies and to ensure a more holistic approach in providing care, protection and restoration of CiSS. 

• It has been formed with the view that children should either be with their families, guardians or under appropriate care and not in the street situation. In case the family needs support, it may be provided by the respective states/UTs keeping in mind the best interest of the child.

• The Supreme Court had earlier directed states and UTs to implement the suggestions for formulation of rehabilitation policy for street children and said it should not remain on paper.

• It had noted that till date information regarding only 17,914 street children has been provided while their estimated number is 15-20 lakh.

• A bench of Justices said the steps taken so far have not been satisfactory and rescuing children should not be a temporary exercise and it should be ensured that they are rehabilitated.

• As it is clear that the other states/UTs have not raised any objection or sought any modification of the suggestions made by NCPCR, we direct all the states/UTs to implement the guidelines circulated by NCPCR and take steps to rescue and rehabilitate the children apart from the later stages which are clear from Bal Swaraj Portal, the SC bench said.

• This portal has been created with a purpose for online tracking and digital real time monitoring mechanism of children who are in need of care and protection.

Manorama Yearbook app is now available on Google Play Store and iOS App Store

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