About 20 million children, about 4% of their population in India and higher than people living in Delhi, are orphan. Of them, parents of only 0.3% children have died and rest have been abandoned.
The figure is result of a study done by SOS Children’s Village by analyzing data from 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 were the poorer states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, which had higher number of orphan children as compared to richer northern and southern states of India. As a result, the central zone has highest number of orphan children followed by east zone. The two zones also cover most of the naxal affected regions in India.
“Poverty has been a significant contributor in high orphan children in these states,” said Rakesh Jinsi, secretary general of the NGO SOS Children’s Village. “Social unrest and terror --- militancy and naxalism -- are two another 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% of them live with either of their parent.
But what the study highlight is that a large number of children in India struggle to survive leave alone having access to education and other welfare measures. Some of these children end up being trafficked or pushed into illegal works.
“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%age terms is expected to fall by 2021 although their number will increase from present 20 million to 24 million. However, there is no comparative data to indicate whether the number of orphan children has increased or decreased.
The SOS Children Village did not present the segregated data on sex-ratio these children to find out whether abandoning of the children is based sex of the child or not.
“In case of poor people abandoning is more because of economic reasons than gender,” said Jinsi.