Project for sex workers’ kids finds no volunteers?

March 26th, 2008 - 11:37 am ICT by admin  

By Ritu Sharma
New Delhi, March 26 (IANS) Children of sex workers at G.B. Road, the main red light area of the capital, cannot avail themselves of the benefits of a proposed ‘anganwadi’ (child and woman welfare centre) as the government claims no NGO has come forward to start the project. The Delhi government, in an affidavit filed before the high court in 2006, said it planned to start anganwadi centres in red light areas of the city. The move was aimed at checking the entry of prostitutes’ children into the flesh trade. The high court had approved of the plan.

But the proposal to set up a centre at G.B. Road in central Delhi failed to take off.

“We have not been able to establish a centre at G.B. Road as no NGO volunteered to take up the project,” Delhi Social Welfare Board secretary Khursheed Bano told IANS.

She added: “Firstly, due to space constraints, we thought we would set up a centre for the children at G.B. Road in Kamla Nagar. But the project did not materialise and we opened an anganwadi centre at Rewla Khanpur.”

Delhi has two red light areas - one at G.B. Road and the other at Rewla Khanpur, south Delhi, Bano said.

During the Mughal era, Delhi had five red light areas. But the British closed all but the one at G.B. Road, named after British collector Garstin Bastion. The road was officially named Swami Shraddhanand Marg in 1965.

About seven kilometres away from the presidential palace, the area in the walled city of Delhi is home to about 4,000 sex workers.

“The only government scheme that is functional for us is the regular distribution of condoms,” said Shanti (name changed) who lives in one of the dingy ‘kothas’ (brothels) of G.B. Road.

Said Priya, a sex worker who is also a young mother: “Prostitution may not be legal, but we don’t have any other means to earn our livelihood. We don’t want our children to meet the same fate as us. Can the government do something about this?”

While the government blamed the lack of initiative on the part of NGOs, it failed to explain why its department of women and child development couldn’t take up the project.

“The Delhi government endorses public-private partnership. Ten percent of the anganwadi centres have to be run by NGOs,” an employee with the department said on condition of anonymity.

But activists working for the welfare of sex workers term the government’s excuse as a mere “eyewash”.

“All the government plans remain only on paper. Our organisation is opening a child care and development centre at G.B. Road in April,” said Khairati Lal Bhola of the Bharatiya Patita Uddhar Sabha.

“The other issue - why NGOs do not come forward - is that the government’s grants are not regular enough,” said Bhola, who has been working for the rights of sex workers since 1985.

(Ritu Sharma can be contacted at ritu.s@ians.in)

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