Nepali Times Asian Paints
From The Nepali Press
Our street kids

"I was walking around Putali Sadak one morning when suddenly a man came and accused me of stealing his utensils. He hit me hard and dragged me to Singha Darbar police station. I was locked up for 12 days without proper food and beaten regularly by the police. See, I still have the scars," Krishna Shrestha told us.

Twelve-year-old Kalu Pariyar says he gets beaten by watchmen at night, when he is sleeping by the roadside. And Ram Bahadur, 13, says people are always calling him names like thief and pickpocket. There are nearly 5,000 street children in Nepal's cities, nearly 800 of them are in Kathmandu, according to CWIN's latest survey. Rapid urbanisation, financial difficulties, lack of love, domestic violence and unemployment are only some of the reasons why children leave home.

The armed conflict has boosted the numbers of kids leaving home, entering city areas and living on the streets. These children are vulnerable and are targeted by paedophiles, are prone to drug abuse and criminal activities. The longer they stay on the streets, the more likely it is that they will get involved in such activities. Our society is to be blamed for this situation and if we do not accept our responsibility now, we will have to bear grave consequences in the future.

I was in Gaushala recently trying to bring five street kids to CWIN. When we tried to put them in a bus the conductor refused. "They are filthy, so when we let them ride on the bus our usual passengers get off," he said. In other cases the children are called names, chased away, sprayed with water and hit. Such violence occurs even within their own groups. There is often a leader who comes at the end of the day and loots the money the kids have made. If they do not get the money they want, these older kids often torture little ones, cutting them with knives, making them lift heavy loads and eat Dendrite.

The children say the police also torture them. They form the children into groups so they can go pick pockets or force them to look for sex workers. Yet if someone is robbed, the police blame the street kids, intimidate them into confessing and throw them in jail. The problems facing these street children are complex and challenging. However, it will not be impossible to start rehabilitation programs if we work with a clear conscience and firm willpower. The first step would be for society to stop mistreating the children on our streets.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)