BHUBANESWAR: Only around 200 children are living on streets in Odisha, states data provided by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Replying to a question during the ongoing budget session in the Parliament, Union Minister Smriti Irani said as per the data uploaded to the Baal Swaraj portal of government of India, the total number of children in street situations in the country stands at 19,546 of which, 226 are in Odisha as on March 3, 2022.
While 172 children are living on the streets with their families, 11 stay on the streets in the day and are back home in the night with their families who reside in nearby slums or hutmets. Besides, the state has 43 children living on the streets alone (without parents or any family support). The ministry had asked the state government to upload the data of children living in street situations to the portal.
Activists working in the field of child rights, however, said the number is way too less compared to the situation at the grassroots. The number has only increased post-pandemic and a survey would reveal the actual data, they added. Many of them are child beggars and ragpickers and found mostly in five cities - Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Berhampur and Puri.
In July last year, the then Women and Child Development minister Basanti Hembram had informed the Assembly that 393 children in the state are homeless and are living on the streets. The number, however, had been derived from only two districts - Khurda and Jajpur. While Khurda district had 305 such children, the remaining were from Jajpur district.
“Even this data given by the then WCD minister is an incomplete one. Surveys to identify such children have never happened in a proper manner in Odisha as a result of which, they are deprived of free and compulsory education and several other government benefits,” said Ratnakar Sahoo, a child rights activist and founder of city-based Aashayen.Admitting that the actual number must be higher, chairperson of OSCPCR Mandakini Kar said there may be some discrepancy in the Baal Swaraj data.