AS many as 50,000 of the city’s underprivileged children under the age of 18 years would soon get Indian citizenship.
These are children living on streets, those living below poverty line, and sex workers’ children.
After a detailed survey among 1 lakh deprived city children, the City Level Programme of Action (CLPOA), an organisation supported by the state government’s Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare, has identified these children as born in Kolkata.
Achintya Bhattacharya, the secretary of CLPOA, said the organisation is awaiting birth certificates from the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC).
An official in the civic body’s Health department, meanwhile, said the birth certificates are ready and would be passed on to CLPOA by this week.
CLPOA’s Bhattacharya said the survey was conducted last year under the guidance of UNICEF. “We decided to give citizenship status to all deprived children born in Kolkata,” he said. “Once they have the birth certificates, these children will be able to get ration cards and other legal documents.”
The citizenship right would also enable the children to cast their votes when they attain 18 years.
“The survey was carried out by 74 organisations and we have decided to go for group affidavits instead of individual affidavits,” Bhattacharya said. “Ten children representing these 50,000 will each be given a certificate, while the remaining certificates and affidavits would be handed over to the 74 organisations.
“They, in turn, will hand them over to the kids. This will be done within a month, and we will try and invite Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee or Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi at the hand-over programme.”
The children, meanwhile, are anywhere between being ecstatic and skeptical. Sibu Mondol, 10, a street dweller in Rashbehari Avenue, told Newsline: “I know I was born in Kolkata. What additional benefits will a certificate provide give me?”
But 15-year-old Rafiq Ali, who works at a tea stall on College Street, is more hopeful: “I will have an identity of my own, unlike my father. This might even help me get a job when I grow up.”