A photograph published on a national English daily recently tells us a tale of harrowing condition that the poor and street children live in. It shows that some children are sleeping in an insecure place beside AK Khan Jakir Hossain Road in the port city of Chattogram.
A sub-human condition indeed! They sleep there as they have no permanent place to live in. In cities and towns across Bangladesh, a large number of such poor children live in squalid conditions. These cities and towns are almost devoid of basic civic amenities that the poor and helpless children deserve to get.
In urban planning, children are, as though, treated as never-do-wells or useless derelicts of society. Their needs are, in fact more often than not, overlooked.
The Universal Children's Day is observed throughout the world to protect the rights of the children. But in our country there are millions of children who do not have access to nutritious foods, shelter, education, healthcare or elementary opportunities they need. Bangladeshi children comprise almost one-third of the total population.
There is a variegated development spree in many urban areas. Actually, there is no duty more important than ensuring that the children's rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.
It is pertinent to ponder on as to how many of the prerequisites for good lives of children are present in urban space. Whatever little opportunity exists for physical and mental growth of the children the needy section of people cannot reap the benefits.
Even though responsible people emphasise importance of children's welfare, there is no denying the fact that the government is yet to pay much attention to improving living conditions of the children, especially the ones from economically insolvent families.
There are still numerous children - urchins, street boys or 'tokai' by whatever names you call them - who sleep or live on pavement or sides of the roads. These children have also rights like other children of affluent section of the society. The urban planners should make it clear to relevant authorities that measures are needed to be taken for all children irrespective of economic status of their parents to help them enjoy equal benefits.
It is expected that children-sensitive welfare strategies should be taken up by the Ministry of Planning and implemented by all relevant agencies for the benefit of the poor children as well. Such development is for all children to get easy access to clean air and water, sanitation, education, healthy environment and good upbringing. It is also necessary that the country's underprivileged children need to be provided with special supports for allowing them to build their life and thus contribute to national wellbeing.
Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled is a retired Professor of Economics and Vice Principal at Cumilla Women's Government College, Cumilla.
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