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Civic body offers lifeline for street children

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Special Correspondent

Designed to address the basic needs of children at risk

Thiruvananthapuram: Robbed of childhood and adult protection, hundreds of street children and juvenile migrant labourers in the city are compelled to negotiate a precarious existence in a dark world of crime, misery and exploitation. The City Corporation is now holding out a lifeline for these vulnerable children.

On the cards is a major rehabilitation project to rescue these young people from their plight and offer them a better future. Designed to address the basic needs of children at risk including street children, the programme follows a participatory approach involving community and civil service organizations.

The rehabilitation package will follow a multi-pronged method to identify street children and improve the quality of their life. A string of rehabilitation centres and bridge schools to impart education to working children is proposed to be set up. The children will be organised into small groups named Balasabhas for empowerment.

The Corporation will try to trace out the family and enable the child to live with its parents. Counselling support would be provided to the child and parents. Parents would also be educated on the need to protect the basic rights of the children.

According to a preliminary survey carried out by the Corporation for the City Development Plan (CDP), an average of 15 children arrive in the city from different parts of Kerala and the neighbouring States every week. A section of the street children are migrant labourers employed as construction workers, coolies or domestic helps. Many of them are engaged in beggary, shoe polishing, rag picking and vending of sundry items. Others peddle drugs and involve in anti-social activities.

At least two or three of these children who have no safe homes to return are accommodated in the rehabilitation centre run by the Don Bosco centre, an NGO.

While a majority of the children have severed ties with their family, a good number of them live with their family either in the streets of the city or in the suburbs. The CDP points out that these children are not deviant or delinquent; in fact they are intrinsically more gifted than the mainstream ones.

The Corporation is planning to establish three new rehabilitation centres in different regions of the city. The existing rehabilitation centres and juvenile homes would be upgraded with improved facilities. It is also proposed to open four bridge schools to impart education to the working children.

The project is to be submitted to the Union Government for financial assistance under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

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