The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked the State of Maharashtra to conduct a fresh census of street children in Mumbai and other areas in the State. The court directed the State to submit a proposal regarding the same.
A division bench of Chief Justice Naresh H Patil and Justice Makarand S Karnik also sought to know what the task force committee constituted for assessing the situation of street children and finding solutions has done in the past 3-4 years.
Previously, in 2013, a census was conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences which revealed that there are 37,059 street children in Mumbai, around 30 per cent of which are girls.
The court is hearing a PIL filed by one KP Musthafa seeking welfare facilities for street children. In the previous hearing on December 5, the court had asked the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to see whether municipal schools that have been shut down could be opened up for accommodating these children. The court had also asked AGP HS Venegavakar appearing for the State to take instructions on-
(a) Task Force Committee and
(b) de-addiction centres in Maharashtra.
On Tuesday’s hearing, MCGM counsel submitted that these schools could not accommodate these children as they have already been earmarked for accommodation. No submission regarding the task force committee was made.
TISS professors Vijay Raghavan and Asha Mukundan, appointed as Amicus Curiae, submitted that there is a need to open night shelters in strategic locations to protect these children from physical and sexual abuse, also any medical problems like diseases etc. They further stated that once the de-addiction centre in Andheri shut down in 2014, there were no such dedicated de-addiction centres left in the city.
The court was informed that the task force committee had met only two times since 2014. To this, the bench retorted- “What has the committee done in the last three-four years?”
The task force committee was directed to report in the next hearing on what steps had been taken to provide food and healthcare facilities to these children and an update on the utilization of funds provided for NGOs.