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20 Million Young Orphans:
India's Abandoned Children




About 20 million children, about 4% of the total population of India - that is, more than the total population of greater Delhi - are orphans.

Of those 20 million, only 0.3% of the children were orphaned by the death of their parents.

The rest - 99.7% of them - are abandoned children.

The figure is from a study done by SOS Children’s Village by analyzing data from the National Family Health Survey-3 for the year 2005-06 and the population estimation by the Census of India to find the dark spots for children below the age of 18 in India.

It was states such like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, which had the highest number of orphan children as compared to the northern and southern states of India. As a result, the central zone has highest number of orphan children followed by east zone. These two zones also cover most of the regions currently experiencing increased activism, often violent, against exploitation by the 'higher castes' and the corrupt rich.

“Poverty has been a significant contributor in high orphan children figures in these states,” said Rakesh Jinsi, secretary general of the NGO, the SOS Children’s Village. “Social unrest and terror - militancy and naxalism - are two other major factors behind the high number of orphans in certain states”.

Orphan children for the study were defined as those abandoned and whose both parents have died. Situation of children with single parent has also been analysed in the study.

India has the highest population of children below the age of 18 - 41% of the total population. Although over 4% of them are orphan as per the study, around 13% live with a single parent.

But what the study highlights is that a large number of children in India struggle to survive, living alone and having no access to education and other welfare measures. Some of these children end up being trafficked or pushed into illegal activity.

“Many of the children who are trafficked are those whose parents have died or they have been abandoned,” said a senior government official. 

The only good news the study presents is that the overall estimation of orphan children in percentage terms is expected to fall by 2021, although their number will increase from present the 20 million to 24 million. However, there is no comparative data to indicate whether the number of orphan children has increased or decreased in recent years and decades.

The SOS Children Village did not present the segregated data on sex-ratio of these children to find out whether or not abandonment of the children is based on the gender of the child.

“In the case of poor people, abandoning is more because of economic reasons than gender,” said Jinsi.


[Courtesy: Hindustan Times. Edited for]

July 29, 2011


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India's Abandoned Children"

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