Thursday, 1 August 2013

Why Delhi Police’s ad on street children is condemnable

Jul 31, 2013


By Valay Singh Rai 


The Delhi police ad encouraging readers to prevent street children from chopping heads by teaching them how to chop onions reads like a cold-blooded edict from medieval times. The police ad reinforces a negative stereotype of street children and brands them as future criminals.

The ad has been issued by the Delhi Police Yuva Foundation whose objective is to “take all possible initiatives to wean away young adults and under-privileged children, who for want of proper educational and sports facilities may take to crime…” Perhaps the ad is well-meaning is too, but the way it has tried to paint all street children as potential cut-throats is a violation of the rights of children and is in terrible taste. And, it betrays the regressive anti-street child attitudes prevailing among the police.

The ad also boasts that the police has given jobs to 11 of 84 street children it has ‘rescued’ and given vocational training to. While it is a laudable initiative to provide vocational training to juveniles the way the ad has chosen to convey the message is very problematic claim as it conveys that it is fine to have children working instead of being in school and getting the care every child deserves.

That this ad has been published after multiple ghastly incidents of rape and murder jolted Delhi citizens to come out on the streets shows just how much ‘change’ has taken place in the way the police functions. It also reveals that Delhi police refuses to pay attention to this many-layered issue, much like the onion it wants street children to learn to chop.

The Delhi Police Ad is seen in this photo.

Street children are children who need care and protection and not castigation as threats to society, they constitute one percent of the national capital’s total children.

Among them one in five is a rag picker leading a very vulnerable life. Without support, street children fall prey to substance and physical abuse and are almost never able to get timely or adequate medical assistance. And yet, the Delhi police finds it fit to portray them in such a poor light. Does the police department have facts to show that crimes by children have increased dramatically? I don’t think so.

Consider this: in 2012, Delhi police filed cases against nearly 1500 children in the age group 12 and 18; in 2012, Delhi had the highest rate of crimes against children, up to 78.5 percent from 19.8 percent in 2010. These facts are self-explanatory; Delhi’s street children are probably the most vulnerable and abused children in the country. Ironically, it is from Jharkhand which has the lowest rate of crime against children, that a lot of child labourers are trafficked into Delhi and other parts of the county from the villages of this mainly tribal state.


Children in Conflict With Law

There are several social and economic factors that push children to committing crimes. But it isn’t the poor voiceless street children alone who commit the most crimes. In the year 2004, the share of homelesschildren who were involved in various crimes was just 7.5 percent. Inadequacy of law and the behaviour of police add to the woes of children. It has been found that children, often innocent ones, are rounded up by the police for theft and robbery so that the police can claim to show some action on the cases reported by them.

It is the street child who is the victim of incessant abuse rained on her/him by almost all the adults around. Who were the people who physically abused a child on the street? The abusers varied from guardian/parents to agents, police, relatives/friends, other street children, and car/other commuters Instead of being the guardians of child rights, policemen are also found to be the abusers in many cases. Whether it is verbal abuse or physical, more than 25 percent street children are abused by the police according to a 2010 study done by Save the Children. The same study revealed that there were at least 50,000 street children in Delhi.

People of Delhi don’t need encouragement through police ads to employ more children. There are already enough child labourers in the city who are often exploited by their employers because they are young, small, poor, ignorant of their rights, and often have no family members who will come to their defence; in case they do have guardians, it is more than likely that they may be incapable of defending them or of approaching/ ensuring any legal help, or of generating any other kind of support.

The police force needs to learn how to deal with children and youth in a more sensitive and appropriate way. The senior officers need to ensure that the policemen personnel on the ground are trained in child rights and child safeguarding principles. The abusive of the police with street children should be condemned by all of us. Children whether on the street or in homes need care and protection, and a humane environment wherein they can achieve their fullest potential.

Valay Singh Rai works for Save the Children


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