x = independently organized TED event

Theme: Unequal India

This event occurred on
June 23, 2012
5:00pm - 11:00pm IST
(UTC +5.5hrs)
new delhi, Delhi

The Need for a Voice
More and more children are taking to streets for a variety of reasons and an alarmingly miniscule proportion are being reached out to by state and non-state actors. It is estimated that out of these less than 2 per cent of street youth and children are reached by the custodial juvenile homes and less than 5 per cent by all NGO interventions. In Delhi, the national capital, for instance, there are, for instance, an estimated 50,000 street children. In a recent case in the High Court, it emerged that around 1200 are reached by custodial juvenile homes of the state government, and 1500 by all NGOs (but very few provide mainstream education and comprehensive residential care). There are also serious limitations to the conventional state approaches such as custodialising such children in un-free homes. NGO models are of uneven quality, and diverse approaches; those that have merit are often too cost intensive to be replicable on the scale that is a dire requirement.
Children take to the streets for many reasons. An important distinction is made between children and youths on the streets, and children and youths of the streets. Children and youth of the street have no adult protection, usually because they have chosen to snap their ties with their families and run away, or because their guardians have died, or are in jail, or are lost. They are the most vulnerable, because a child needs the care of adults as she grows. Children and youth on the street do retain contact with their families in the city, who may also live on the street or in slums. However, because of extreme poverty, substance abuse or irresponsible parentage, the children are left largely to their own devices. At an early age they learn to find food and earn money for themselves, and often for their families- they may beg, forage in rubbish heaps for food and recyclable materials.
Street children are brave but profoundly vulnerable survivors. They often have run away from drunken and intensely violent fathers, cruel step-parents, incest, starvation, parents who cannot or fail to support or take care of them, and even horrendous massacres. Some are lost or abandoned, or their parents have died or are in jail.

They brave, usually with groups of other street children, the harsh adult world of the streets. Like little adults, they negotiate with spirit and audacity the brutalised life of pavements, public parks, railway and bus stations, and waste dumps. They learn to live by their wits on the street, find food, work or beg to get money, fight for whatever they need, and fend off older bullies and the police. At an early age, they often learn to beg, at places of worship or traffic lights, or forage in rubbish heaps not only for food but also for various materials that can be sold for recycling. As they grow older, girls are often drawn into domestic or sometimes even casual street-based sex work, whereas boys may diversify from rag picking to working in garages and catering establishments.
Since they often lack responsible adult protection, it is the legal obligation of the State to ensure their protection and rights to education, food, health care, and indeed to a safe and care-free childhood. The state in India first accepted the legal responsibility to look after children without responsible adult protection almost a century back, in the 1920s, when
the first Children’s Acts were enacted in Madras and Bombay presidencies. But although the theoretical premise of such legislation was to provide vulnerable children care and protection by the state, its language and provisions were overlaid with the bias that the child who is deprived of family care is ‘bad’, or at least potentially bad, hence they need to be safely locked up, for the sake of the larger society as much as the child.
This attitude still defines the practice of our law for vulnerable children almost a century later, and their continued preference for custodialsing children even when the law does not require it. The colonial laws classified these children into different categories such as neglected, orphaned, destitute, vagrant and delinquent children. The neglected, orphaned, destitute and the vagrant children were sent to observation homes, classifying centres, approved schools, remand homes, orphanages, and fit persons' homes; and delinquent children were sent to certified schools, industrial schools, borstal schools and other reformatory institutions.
Later in 1960, the Parliament enacted a central law, the Children's Act, to safeguard the children from abuse and exploitation. Later, with a view to providing a uniform pattern of justice to the juveniles (young persons) through out the country, the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA) was enacted in 1986. The Act provided for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of neglected children and laid down a uniform legal framework to ensure that no child under any circumstances is lodged in jail or kept in police-lock up. But the JJ Act, 1986 was criticised on many counts by child rights activists, most importantly because it laid too much emphasis on institutionalisation of children. The 1986 Juvenile Justice Act was therefore ultimately repealed, and was replaced by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (JJA).
There are many progressive features in the JJ Act 2000. One is that the definition of the term ‘juvenile’ and ‘child’ has been altered to mean a person who has not completed the 18th year of age. The term ‘neglected juvenile’ has been replaced with ‘child in need of care and protection,’ and the term ‘delinquent juvenile’ has been changed to a less stigmatised ‘juvenile in conflict with law. Street children are mainly in the first category, but sometimes they are also alleged to have entered into conflict with the law.
Another example of lack of imagination on the part of the state is the “Right to Education” act which completely ignores the needs of the most marginalized of our children, be it street children, children in conflict with law, children with special needs etc.

We believe that the best people to advocate for their rights are the children themselves along with the leading leaders in the field of child rights with a keen focus on the most marginalized of our children. For advocating this voice we are creating a platform where children will voice their concerns and demand their own rights next to the people who matter the most….

We need you to support them in this endeavor…let us together make their voices heard!!

JNU Convention center - Auditorium 1
Jawahar Lal Nehru University
Convention center - Audi 1
new delhi, Delhi, 110067
Event type:
Youth (What is this?)
See more ­T­E­Dx­Youth@­Ummeed events

Organizing team


  • Shashank Shukla
  • Rupal Nayar
    Event manager
  • Juhi Sharma
  • Neville Breganza
  • Pallavi Kaul
  • Nitibha Kaul
  • Varun Goel
  • Shilpi Guha
  • Anshika Sharma
  • Kanika Bachawat
  • Ritika Shah
  • Ritika Chawla
  • Rachita Gupta
  • Harry Robertson
  • Shivang Raina
    Event Manager
  • Tanvi Girotra
  • Anubhav Sapra
    External Communications
  • Rashmi Singh