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Near corridors of power,kids who fell through RTE cracks

The primary aim of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act is to bring out-of-school children within the ambit of education.

The primary aim of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act is to bring out-of-school children within the ambit of education. But even weeks after the ambitious Act was passed,not much has changed for the children who have to slog on the streets to earn their daily bread,even very close to the power centres in the Capital. Maroosha Muzaffar does a reality check

Manoj Kumar (14)
Raisina Road,near Parliament

He sits at the turn of the road,hardly 50 metres from Parliament — the seat of power. From 7.30 in the morning till 11 in the night,he sells namkeen. Then he packs his things and walks back to his makeshift home nearby,where he lives alone. All day he sits silently on the footpath,observing the world go by. Occasionally he hands over small packets of namkeen to customers after a round of haggling. At times,people stop to ask him about bus routes. Manoj Kumar remembers the routes by heart.

Many a time,he has seen the “motors” of VIPs and ministers pass by on Raisina Road. They do not notice Manoj. He remains like an obscure shadow in a corner.

“I left home last year when I was in Class VII,” says Manoj. He does not know what the RTE Act is. “I have never heard of that.”

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He came to Delhi from Rashidpur village in Uttar Pradesh. “My father is a farmer. I have two brothers and one sister. I had to leave studies and come to Delhi to earn. I visit my family in UP on weekends once or twice a month,” he adds.

Mukesh Kumar (8)
Civil Lines Metro station

Mukesh Kumar (13) came to Delhi just three weeks ago with his uncle to look for a “job”. And he has found one. He sells fruit juice near the Civil Lines Metro station,is close to Delhi Education Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely’s residence at 9,Sham Nath Marg.

His family stays in a village called Balwanpur in UP. “I came here with my uncle,who also sells fruit juice,” he says. But he is mostly silent,turning the handle of the fruit juicer.

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He places his fruit cart under the shade of a tree every morning. All day long,he waves flies off the cart,grates the fruit,and sells juice.

In spite of the proximity to Lovely’s residence,Mukesh has not seen the Education minister. The two remain strangers to each other.

Rakesh (12)
South Avenue

He scrubs dishes under a hand pump. Clad in a ragged shirt,he makes sure the stains on the steel plates are wiped clean. Lifting the heavy plates,he disappears inside the tiny shop on South Avenue — where many Members of Parliament reside. Outside their homes,in a small roadside shop,Rakesh (aged 12) faces his fate.

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His days are spent carrying out the orders of his employer,Ritesh. He walks as if he never wants to be seen,his eyes cast down. When Newsline spoke to his employer,he said,“Aisi koi baat nahi hai,Rakesh 14 saal ka hai (It’s nothing like that. Rakesh is 14).”

Rakesh lives with Ritesh in Tilak Nagar,West Delhi. “I provide him a place to sleep. He has no one to take care of him. He has one brother,but he went off to Gujarat and left Rakesh in my custody.” When asked why is Rakesh is not in school,he replies,“I tried. Rakesh gets food to eat and has a place to stay. Maybe Rakesh is happy,maybe not. Maybe he wants to go to school. We may never know. Rakesh does not speak.”

Omesh Kumar (8)
Bhiku Ram Jain Marg

He has learnt the tricks of his trade. He beckons customers with his childish charm to buy the bananas he carries in his basket. “No,I don’t go to a school,” grins Omesh,who looks hardly eight years of age. “I don’t know my age.”

During the day,after his parents — both of them construction workers — head for work,Omesh and his brother Sunil spend the day by the roadside selling bananas. Their area of trade is Bhiku Ram Jain Marg,right behind Lovely’s residence in North Delhi. The JJ clusters of the labourers are situated on the nearby Azadpur Road.

Omesh has spent all his childhood on the roadside. Even with the RTE Act in place,that does not seem slated to change anytime soon.

First published on: 14-05-2010 at 01:52 IST
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