Owning destitute kids: Sindh turns to NGOs


Acting on a high court order to provide shelter to street children, the Sindh government has decided to engage prominent non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for the welfare of street children, their schooling and hostel facilities, it has been learnt.
Well-placed sources told Pakistan Today that the decision was taken at a recent meeting of Sindh Social Welfare Department officers presided over by provincial Social Welfare Minister Nargis ND Khan.
The Sindh Social Welfare Department will approach prominent NGOs working on the subject to ensure the utilisation of Rs 119.45 million allocated for the welfare of street children in a proper manner. The process for short listing the NGOs would start after Eidul Fitr, they added.
The sources disclosed that more than 10 renowned NGOs would be selected for the purpose so that the street children could be provided with better facilities like schooling, hostels, etc.
On August 15, a Sindh High Court (SHC) division bench, including Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Salman Hamid, had directed the Sindh government to provide shelter to street children and ensure that Rs 119.45 million allocated for the purpose are utilised.
While disposing of the constitutional petition filed by Human Rights Commission for South Asia’s Iqbal Kazmi, the bench had directed the Social Welfare Department to take homeless children into its custody and provide them with shelter. The Sindh Inspector General of Police was also ordered to provide assistance to the department for the purpose.
The court observed that it was the responsibility of the State to take care of homeless children and ordered that the process was to be completed within two weeks of the order and a report presented to the member of a SHC inspection team.
The petitioner had sought directives from the court for provision of shelter, education and basic necessities to 32,500 street children present in Karachi. He pleaded that the court should order police to take into custody the children found unprotected on roads at night and take them to the Remand Home (a government-run accommodation for homeless children).
Quoting figures from a survey conducted by an NGO, Kazmi had maintained that there are around 32,500 street children in Karachi alone and 17,000 of them spend the night on the roadsides. Moreover, 12 to 20 such children are added to the figure everyday, coming from all over the country seeking work, refuge or freedom in Karachi. They are exposed to sexual harassment and many of them are forced into prostitution, claimed 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; 1,685 at auto-repair workshops; and 4,700 street children are selling flowers and cleaning windshields at traffic signals,” the petitioner stated.
At least 7,840 cases are pending against 12,000 juvenile offenders (children below 18 years of age). Seventeen children are living in the Remand Home while 145 under-trial juvenile offenders are lodged at the juvenile prison, Kazmi added.
The plaintiff stated that under Section 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code, police officers are required to arrest any children found begging or out on the streets in the night and take them to the Remand Home.
Under the Guardian and Ward Act, the state is the ‘guardian’ of all children, he added.
“The Social Welfare Department has an annual budget of Rs 119.45` million and also has the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development but it has done nothing for the welfare of street children,” the petitioner claimed.
As for the role of the Home and Prisons Department, Kazmi stated 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.