The Sindh High Court has ordered the Social Welfare Department to take street children into its custody from now on.
The order was passed on Monday during the hearing of a petition. The welfare department’s secretary has two weeks to comply with the orders and submit a report to Member Inspection Team.
The bench also asked the Inspector General of Police to cooperate with the social welfare department. The home secretary, secretary of finance and district co-ordination officers were told to help arrange funding. Conservative estimates put the number of street children at 32,500, as the petitioner said.
While a few non-government organisations work for their welfare, the state’s hand is seen as largely absent even though it is constitutionally responsible for them.
Their plight becomes highlighted in Ramazan when kidnappings and reports of missing children go up and experts suspect that some of them are kidnapped to be pushed into begging.
Roshni Helpline’s Mohammad Ali, a child rights NGO, told The Express Tribune that recently the police raided a group of professional beggars and recovered a kidnapped child.
Eight-year-old Muhammad Urs escaped a fate in which he would have been physically handicapped and forced to beg. He went missing from Shah Rasool Colony in Boat Basin police limits.
The police also arrested Rameez Ghopang, one of the men involved.
The social worker claims that there are eight more registered cases of missing children between two and seven years old that his NGO has referred to the police. Roshni Helpline is in talks with the inspector general of police to try and increase an exchange of information between police stations on beggars and cases that prove their involvement in child kidnapping. The NGO wants the move to be made at a provincial level to widen the scope of investigation and recoveries. He said that they plan to conduct a survey of these groups with the Sindh Home Department after Ramazan.
“We have suggested that the home office put together some form of a permanent mechanism to keep track of these groups.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2011.