Orphans : The Forgotten Children of India
India has 29.6 million orphaned and abandoned children (more than the population of Sri Lanka! In 2017, of these 30 million children, there were only 370,000 children in over 9500 child care institution. In an orphanage or CCI the child has access to some food, limited education but only till age 14. When the child turns 18, she has to leave the home, but is entitled to “aftercare”—support for independent living and community integration, as laid out in the Juvenile Justice Act.
Turning 18 for orphans in a CCI is not an event to be celebrated and looked forward to : it is an event to be dreaded. Almost half of such released children fail to find paid work, according to another study.
Such young adults are the state’s responsibility until they turn 21. This is a reassuring policy, but only in name. More than a 27 per cent had not received any form of aftercare and 44 per cent were not consulted in their care and rehabilitation planning, in September 2018 report of the Jena Committee. It found that many government officials as well as children were unaware of their aftercare being mandated by law.
It is shocking that the Planning Commission and the Government have never conducted a structured survey of orphan children, which includes street children who may maintain some contact with family. This is because there is no one to campaign for these vulnerable children : they are not a ‘vote bank’.
The mandate of Child Protection Services or CPS under the Government of India was to protect these vulnerable children. However, the coverage of this program has been less than 1 lakh children per year.
The study by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) undertaken in 2016-17 has revealed that there are 9589 CCIs/Homes (registered/unregistered); 91 per cent of which are run by non-government organizations, and only 9 per cent are government supported. One in five districts in the country does not have even a single orphanage. A majority of districts does not have the minimum three orphanages needed (one for children of less than 6 years of age and one each for boys and girls of 6-18 years respectively).
The government’s annual expenditure on child protection (covering the entire gamut of child rights) is Rs 1500 crores : it amounts to less than Rs 2 per child per day, covering food, clothing, education and medical needs for the 30 million abandoned children!
In sharp contrast, the total expenditure on scholarships on OBC/SC/ST children in 2018-19 stood was Rs 7165.95 crores.
For children of SC / ST / OBC families, there are several benefits like reservation in institutions for higher education, coaching and hostels for competitive examinations, reservation in jobs, loans to set up a business and even sponsorship for studies abroad. Orphans, 70% of whom would belong to SC / ST or OBC categories, going by the proportion for the population, are not eligible for government scholarships. By the time they reach the age of 18, they have to pretty much fend for themselves. Orphans have no reservations to uplift them.
Adoption in India is consistently less than 6000 children per year, thus it has failed as a solution.
The number of children who are beneficiaries under CPS scheme during 2019-20 was only 75824, which is 0.25% of such vulnerable children.
SERUDS has been running Joy Home Orphanage for 60 children since 2012. The children receive care in a family-like environment. If this story touched you, and you wish to do something for the invisible orphans of India, you can click here to donate
NGOs are playing a leading role in taking care of orphan and abandoned children. Since the government of India funds only 9% of child care Institutions, it is our duty to support all NGO orphanages with donations and advocacy.
To address the fall in donations for orphanages and avoid shortages, Child Protection Scheme (CPS) funding by the government should be extended to all registered CCIs, at least until the current COVID-19 pandemic situation stabilizes. the process to avail funding under ICPS is cumbersome and is released as reimbursed only. Often CCIs get reimbursed for a far lower amount given low budgetary allocations towards child protection services