De-criminalise child begging, find them homes instead: commission

New Delhi, April 17 (Inditop) A child begging on the road hardly appears to be committing a crime – but according to law, he is. In order to segregate children from adult beggars and give them protection, the child rights commission has submitted a proposal to the Delhi High Court.

Amod Kanth, chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), who submitted two schemes to the court for approval, said their first proposal is to decriminalise child begging.

“The 1959 Bombay Prevention of Begging Act makes begging a crime. However, child beggars are different from adults. Instead of making such a child a criminal, he or she needs care and protection, as also stated by the Juvenile Justice Act,” Kanth told IANS.

“Therefore, our first scheme is to segregate child beggars – a staggering number which is increasing every day in Delhi,” he said.

Delhi has approximately 100,000 street children, of which nearly half beg for a living.

The other scheme which the DCPCR has put up is identification, rescue and rehabilitation of child beggars, child labourers and other street children.

“The most ideal way of rehabilitating a destitute child is by giving him or her a family. The Juvenile Justice Act states that adoption, sponsorship and foster care are the best methods of rehabilitation and social integration for a child,” Kanth said.

“Adoption, we believe, is the best of the rehabilitation methods. Therefore, under our second scheme we have said that a child who is homeless and abandoned can be adopted by a family. Of course, there will be a proper process for this.

“The Delhi government, which includes Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna, and a number of NGOs working on the issue are on board with us for this,” Kanth said.

Families interested in adopting a destitute child can approach the Child Welfare Committee and select an adoption agency to legally adopt, he added.

The Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an NGO working on child rights and in the process working with the DCPCR, however, expressed its doubt on the efficacy of the “adoption” plan in the second scheme.

“The Juvenile Justice Act also talks a lot about rehabilitation of child labourers, also mentioning foster care. But you will hardly hear of any rescued child labourer being reintegrated in society in that manner. The problem always is implementation of guidelines,” Bhuwan Ribhu of the BBA told IANS.

“The more important factor of DCPCR’s schemes is that responsibilities will now be fixed on different departments so that accountability and transparency is ensured in the implementation of schemes,” he added.

The schemes that are being examined by a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court will come up in court April 22. “The implementation of the scheme will be finalised by the Delhi government after the elections,” Kanth said.