India has to get her children off the streets and need to give them access to education and an identity, actress-producer Dia Mirza says.
A survey conducted in 2016 by Save the Children in Lucknow, Mughalsarai, Kolkata-Howrah, Patna and Hyderabad enumerated 84,563 children living on the streets.
Dia, also the Artist Ambassador for Save the Children – an NGO and child rights organisation, attended the launch of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Care and Protection of Children in Street Situations.
The document was released by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), in collaboration with Save the Children here on Tuesday.
The actress said: “It breaks my heart to think that just in Delhi, there are over 50,000 children who live on the streets. We have to change this. The only way to change this is by engaging with these children, government and NGOs. We have to get our children off the streets.”
“We have to give them access to education; we have to give them an identity. It’s simple. It can be done. The first indication of this reality is this SOP.”
Dia pointed out that there are many people, including her, who are “fearful and afraid sometimes to collaborate with the government”.
“They (people) are never sure whether the government will support their initiative or not.”
The SOP shows that NGOs and the government can collaborate and work together because the goals are the same — to make a difference, Dia said.
“The best thing about the SOP is that it is accessible to you and me. We can go to the website and study it. If anyone wants to reach out to a child living on the streets, they can. There is a framework that helps us to make a difference,” she said.
Dia also met Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi on Tuesday.
Talking about it, she said: “When I met Maneka ji, I left her office feeling so enthused because of her commitment. She said ‘I don’t want it to remain just a piece of paper. I want it to translate to action’.”
The “Honeymoon Travels Ltd.” actress also shared that children are her “favourite people in the world”.
Dia also visited the Community Managed Toilet operated at the Indira Kalyan Vihar slum in the Okhla area of South Delhi.
“It is their resilience and their spirit that makes me love them (children). We have so much to learn from the children,” she said.
The new document provides a practical framework and guidelines for a holistic approach in providing care, protection and rehabilitation of street children.
Gandhi said in a statement: “Our government is committed to the well being of every child in India. This initiative will help the government to ensure that health, education and protection mechanisms are made available to children living on the streets.”