‘Guardian’ govt needs to look after homeless kids


The Sindh High Court directed the Sindh government on Monday to provide shelter to street children and ensure that the Rs 119 million allocated for this purpose are utilised. A division bench including Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Salman Hamid issued these directives while disposing of a constitutional petition filed by Human Rights Commission for South Asia’s Iqbal Kazmi.
The court directed the provincial Social Welfare Department to take homeless children into their custody and provide them with shelter. It also issued orders to the inspector general of police to provide assistance to the Social Welfare Department for this purpose. The court ordered that the process be completed within two weeks and a report presented to the member of the inspection team of the Sindh High Court.
The court observed that it is the responsibility of the state to take care of homeless children.
The petitioner had sought directives for provision of shelter, education and basic necessities to 32,500 street children in the city.
He pleaded that the court should order police to take into custody children found unprotected on roads at night and take them to the remand home (a sanctuary arranged by the government for homeless children).
Quoting figures from a survey conducted by the NGO, Kazmi maintained there are around 32,500 street children in Karachi alone. Out of them, 17,000 spend the night outside.
Around 12 to 20 such children are added to this figure every day because they come from all over the country to Karachi, seeking work, refuge or freedom. Street children are exposed to sexual harassment and many of them are forced into prostitution, said the petitioner, supporting his argument with statistics.
“There are 9,860 children working at the Fish Harbour and the industrial zones of Karachi, 11,530 are working at hotels and 1,685 at auto-repair workshops,” the petitioner stated.
At least 7,840 cases are pending against juvenile offenders (children below 18 years of age), in which 12,000 offenders are under trial. Around 4,700 street children are selling flowers and cleaning windshields at traffic signals.
Seventeen children are living in the remand home while 145 under-trial juvenile offenders are lodged in the juvenile prison.
The petitioner said that the respondent police officials are required to arrest street children under Section 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Any child found begging or out on the streets in the night should be taken to the remand home.
Kazmi said that under the Guardian and Ward Act, the state is the “guardian” of all children. “The Social Welfare Department has an annual budget of Rs 119 million and also has the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development but it has done nothing for the welfare of street children,” he claimed.
As for the role of the Home and Prisons department, Kazmi said that under the Juvenile Justice Rules 2002, the government was required to construct Borstal Homes (correctional facilities for the youth) in every administrative district of the province but this was never implemented.
The petitioner prayed the court to declare the state as the guardian of children that should direct the law-enforcement agencies to take into custody homeless children and provide them with refuge in the remand home.
The chief secretary, home secretary, finance secretary, inspector general of police, Karachi DCO, capital city police officer, SSP Railways, inspector general prisons, judicial lockup superintendent and Social Welfare Department secretary were cited as respondents in the petition.


Comments are closed.