In the din and frenzy of the last 10 days when the electoral campaign for the assembly polls set Delhi abuzz, several constituencies across the urban sprawl witnessed children from different backgrounds – former labourers, survivors of exploitation and abuse, slum-dwellers and school students – putting forth child-centric demands to an eclectic bunch of candidates contesting the polls.
A campaign for ‘Child Friendly Delhi’ was launched by the children, supported by Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF), when election dates were declared, which concluded on Thursday.
During this period, the children of Bal Panchayats of four Bal Mitra Mandals (BMM) of Delhi – Sanjay Camp in Chanakyapuri, Inder Camp and Israil camp in Vasantkunj and Indra Kalyan Vihar in Okhla phase 1, came up with a long list of child centric demands from the contesting candidates.
BMM, an initiative of KSCF, is a preventative, sustainable, and holistic approach to child protection and development in urban slum communities so that every child is safe, free, healthy and educated.
These demands were then taken to all the 70 constituencies of Delhi by Mukti Caravan – a campaign on wheels led by youth leaders who are former child labourers and rescued by the organisation at some point in time.
The Mukti Caravan team visited all the constituencies, engaging and sensitising the electorate about children’s demands enacted through street plays, announcements, interaction with the people even as the highlight was the slogan ‘Jo Bachchon Ki Baat Karega, Woh Dilli Pe Raaj Karega’. The Mukti Caravan members also met nominees across party lines, engaging them to sign pledges that if elected they will work towards fulfilling the children’s demands. Some of the popular candidates who signed the pledge include Atishi Singh, Dilip Pandey, Rajendra Pal Gautam and others from Aam Aadmi Party, Laxman Rawat, Dharam Bir Singh, Vijay Pandit and others from Bharatiya Janta Party and Gurcharan Singh, Mandeep Singh and Yaduraj Chaudhary from Indian National Congress.
In the course of the campaign, more than 220 candidates were reached across all 70 constituencies and, till Thursday, more than 100 pledges were signed.
A few major demands, among many others, included making Delhi child labour-free, ensuring safety and security of children from sexual abuse and other forms of violence, ensuring free education till Class 12, and ensuring that no child is trafficked were put forth to the nominees of all the three major political parties.
KSCF Spokesperson Rakesh Senger said, “Children contribute a large share of the population of Delhi in the national capital. KSCF wants child centric policies to be made having focus on education, security and health of children to ensure that every child is free, safe and educated and Delhi becomes child friendly.”
Meanwhile, as a part of the campaign, slum children went door to door in their communities with the demands, sharing it with their parents, relatives and neighbours and insisting that they vote only for those candidates who accept these demands.
Nuzhat, member of the Bal Panchayat in BMM Indra Kalyan Vihar said, “We are often harassed when we walk to and from school which scares us. Our major demand is freedom from this fear.”
National Crime Records Bureau data show that in the last three years 26,764 case of crime against children were registered in Delhi with 387 cases of child labour, 2,781 cases of child rape, 1,156 cases of child trafficking, 21,531 cases of missing children being registered.