“Street children” is a widely used term in the world. According to statistics there are 100 million street children found across different countries in the world. India has got 11 million of them, who survive on the streets and slums in the cities and resort to begging, vending and crimes. The age group of children engaged in crimes range within five to eighteen. As such streets offer a milieu where small children graduate into hard-core criminals.
“A fourteen year old teenager even does not crack easily under the third degree interrogation. As such law does not allow us to keep him in custody for interrogation for more than four days”-Says one experienced Police officer in India. Therefore the number of children serving in juvenile delinquent jails is very high.
The causes of children in the slums and streets taking to crimes are many. Some of those are;
Destitution due to family breakdown- Abandoning either new-born infants or minors is common in people living in the lowest rungs of the society. Grinding poverty and search for livelihood result in the disintegration of families. A large percentage of children find petty crimes as easier means for eking out comfortable livelihood. Increasing alcoholism and drug addiction are other reasons behind collapse of families.
Children falling prey to addiction and alcoholism at an early age- More than ninety five percent of children become victims of addiction to dangerous drugs and alcohols at a very early age. They are consumers and peddlers of drugs and alcohols. The number of small children working in illicit country made liquor factories in India is amazingly high.
Natural and man made disasters- Natural disasters like super cyclones, tsunami, famines, drought, flood, earthquake and man made disasters like terrorism, strife, economic crisis, plagues and social victimization taking place in the backward areas in India make people flock to cities in search of their livelihood. The penetration level of perpetrators of heinous crimes in slums and streets is highest in urban India. It is very easy for them to allure the gullible children through every available means into crimes. Every crime lord and drug mafia has his most powerful networks in crime in the slums and corners of the street. Poor and abandoned children are easy preys for them to be trained as operatives from an early age. A number of female children are diverted into prostitution from a very low age and male children are made to beg, pick pocket and steal.
Urbanization and overcrowding contribute to criminalization in children- Not only there is an acceleration to the growing percentage of population but economic growth also convert small villages into urban areas. Take for example in India the adjacent villages to the capital cities gradually get shifted to the folds of urbanization by the development of new localities and markets. Growth of urbanization does not facilitate education and rearing of children in the rural areas, rather it exploits them by making them labor in the dirty manual jobs. Exploitation naturally develops mindset among children to go for crimes.
Apathy of the government machinery- There is law against child labor. But social care for every uncared child is not there. Although large number of non government organizations (NGOs) and orphanages is functioning in the name of child care, those only exploit children by harsher methods. Instances are aplenty that children having extra-ordinary talents are just shown in the public like animals in the circus. Government acts belatedly and actions are inadequate. Government institutions responsible for safeguarding the interests of the children as future generations are apathetic towards those exploiting children. Our democratic set up is not yet ready to take up the complete responsibility of them. The result is abuse of the destitute children from an early age. Consequently they are forced to take to crimes.
Child trafficking into Sex trade- Child prostitution is a flourishing trade in India. Both male and female children are brought by the so called touts from the rural back-waters and forced in the heinous prostitution rackets. Both male and female kids are made to serve as pimps, male and female prostitutes and subjected to utter sexual exploitation.
Despite the law, there is rampant exploitation of children in their roles as domestic servants and as assistants in the shops and restaurants. In most parts of our country children are still made to serve like beasts without any facility of education and child care.Indians are far from accepting the collective responsibility of the children as future makers of the nation.