Orphans of India – The Times of India

Interested in blogging for timesofindia.com? We will be happy to have you on board as a blogger, if you have the knack for writing. Just drop in a mail at [email protected] with a brief bio and we will get in touch with you.

There’s a child, born to parents who have been poor for generations, not allowed to educate themselves or their children, ostracised from main society for centuries. There’s another child, born to some parents, but left with none, thrown in a dumpster, or left in a park, to die or to survive on its own, no idea where to get food from, or even how to get food, nowhere to go, and no one to love him/her.
It would be natural to think that both these children deserve sympathy and affirmative action in some form, if only from the voice of conscience that resides deep within us. That conscience speaks to the Government to take care of the destinies of these siblings in distress.
However, throughout its long existence, the Planning Commission did not think so.
As a result, in the above example, the first child gets benefitted under government schemes to go to school and college, coaching, hostels, reservation, loans and even sponsorship for studies abroad.
The second child? Well, if he/she is lucky enough to be in the 0.5% of all orphans that get to, through a rare concatenation of events, reach an orphanage, then the child has access to some food, limited education (only till age 14) and then at age 18, is shunted out to brave the streets again!
Why do such little numbers reach orphanages? The answer is simple: because there is little infrastructure or for these orphan children. One in five districts in the country does not have even a single orphanage, and majority districts don’t have the minimum three orphanages needed (one for children of less than 6 years of age and one each for boys and girls of 6-18 years respectively). Orphans and vulnerable children do not even have separate legislation in India, they are part of the Juvenile Justice Act. The primary focus being under 18 criminals, even in the law that should protect them, they are lost. This historical neglect could have arisen for many reasons. In India, there are always more beneficiaries and claimants than funds, and orphans and destitute children have no one speaking for them.
Hence, they get lost in the push and pull over competing demands. They do not influence votes, having no parents who are voters. Orphans are not even a prominent social nuisance group. In a democracy, one of the fallouts of majority representation is that policies and funds are often around cornered by those who provide the maximum number of votes, a term we can call the votable bias. It is because of this votable bias, that there are schemes such as mid-day meal, Anganwadi, Ujjwala – schemes that would be of importance to mother’s for the children- because mothers form a large vote bank. It does not help that orphans have no political voice – there are few who speak for them, fatalism and institutional neglect making them a dispersed political entity, ineffectual in fighting for their own rights promised to them under the constitution.
There are over 2 crore orphans in India; more than the total population of Sri Lanka! This figure is from a detailed study by SOS Children’s Villages. The ChildLine portal of the Government states that “UNICEF estimates that there are 25 million orphaned children in India in 2007” and, “Another study estimates that there are about 44 million destitute children and over 12 million orphan and abandoned children in India”. The Planning Commission and the Government have never had a structured survey of these children. For all we know, this figure could be much higher!.
On the UNICEF database, there are official figures of vulnerable children from countries like Chad, Ethiopia and Indonesia, but the row for India is blank. Due to never officially researching the numbers, the Government has never been aware of a large number of children who have been left out of the progress story of our country.
The concept of Parens Patriae, that the state is your parent if you have none, is truer for no other category of citizens but orphans. Without any parent or effective guardian, orphans are children of the Government. Parents save, spend on and encourage their children in their education, coaching and job or business efforts.
Maybe it is too much for the government to provide love and affection, confidence and comfort to these kids. Maybe it is asking for too much of the Government to help them with their homework, take them out for walks, play cricket with them in the park or tuck them into bed every night, like a doting parent. But is it too much to ask the Government to take care of the very basics of a decent childhood, so that the child doesn’t feel lost and forsaken, bereft of the smallest comforts, sleeping on an empty stomach and fighting for existence in the harsh sidewalk of misery? Is it too much to ask the government to provide orphans with their basic right to life, as guaranteed under our Constitution?
The government’s annual expenditure on child protection (covering the entire gamut of child rights) is Rs 1500 crores. Though increased when compared to last year, still amounts to less than Rs 2 per child per day, that too for food, clothing, education and medical needs! In contrast, Air India is being kept afloat with budgetary support of Rs 24,000 crores and while NPA write-offs to banks amount of hundreds of thousands of crores annually. As a result, the total number of orphans and vulnerable children covered in all institutions in the country under the flagship Integrated Child Protection Scheme is 78,000 in 2018-19 ( as per a PIB release of January 2019). The government spends more than Rs 4000 crores annually on SC/ST/OBC/Minorities for pre and post-matric scholarships, besides giving reservation in institutions for higher education, coaching and hostels for competitive examinations, reservation in jobs, loans to set up a business and even sponsorship for studies abroad. All of this and more is justified and even deemed necessary to provide an equal platform of opportunity to these children. However, any child, no matter how weak, cannot be weaker than a child who has no parent, surviving on its own in this big, ugly world. Orphans deserve inclusion in every aspect of assistance from their parent, the State.
The heartbreaking irony is that, statistically, 70 per cent of our population is SC, ST or OBC. It goes on to mean that 70 per cent of our orphan children would obviously belong to these communities. It is a doubly cruel tragedy for orphans from the SC/ST or OBC lineage, who in another world would have had more support and more facilities from the Government, but now, due to the misfortune of not having parents, are left to fend for themselves.
Of all solutions available, the utopia is adoption. However, it is not a significant solution to the extent of the orphan problem. Because the numbers don’t add up. Adoption in India is consistently less than 6000 children per year, thus addressing only the tip of the iceberg.
However, small policy changes could mean a paradigm shift in the lives of these children. Something as simple as a census or survey of orphans can show the Government the numbers they are dealing with. Small steps like ensuring every district in the country has the required number of orphanages, making sure each child without effective guardians reaches a Government facility. Including the word “orphans” to schemes benefiting other children from weaker sections, ensuring that orphans, Weakest On Earth, are also provided proper opportunities for graduate and post-graduate studies, coaching and hostel support and, if possible, reservation in educational institutions and jobs. These changes, which would be ten little words on paper, would result in the difference between life and death for that child on the sidewalk.
The Indian Constitution has been kind, the body of Law has been magnanimous in taking care of those left behind, and where it has lacked, a humane society has tried to pick up the slack. But for 70 years too long, we have forgotten about the children that we see every day, but don’t hear or think about.
“…. We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow,’ his name is today.”
-(Gabriela Mistral)
{{{short}}} {{#more}} Read More {{/more}}
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
It’s not working: Are netas hearing young talk about jobs crisis?
It’s Our Carma: That the Pune teen who killed two isn’t already being tried as adult tells a lot about justice system
How to make elections civil again
Pune accident: Negligent parents have bigger responsibility in juvenile crimes
Courting the cops, always: SC order in the NewsClick case shows trial court judges are authorising detentions casually
4 ideas have won the election
Only wave is the heatwave
Tragedy foretold
Poll do pyaaza: Onion politics shows how all parties try to balance consumer & farmer interests, and get it wrong
Raisi is dead, long live Raisi’s policies
Interested in blogging for timesofindia.com? We will be happy to have you on board as a blogger, if you have the knack for writing. Just drop in a mail at [email protected] with a brief bio and we will get in touch with you.
TOI Edit Page,Voices
Erratica,TOI Edit Page,Tracking Indian Communities
Juggle-Bandhi,TOI Edit Page
TOI Edit Page
Copyright © 2024 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service


Scroll to Top
best ai toolss for students|छात्रों की बल्ले बल्ले Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid During RBSE Board Exams: Expert Tips for Success Mastering RBSE 10th English Exam 2024: Top 10 Tips and Tricks” RPSC LATEST JOBS ASSITANT PROFESSOR Hrithik Roshan fitness