If Bangladesh's fast-growing economy is a “mystery” to the rest of the world, as we are told, perhaps no less mysterious is how the fruits of this economy have bypassed a large segment of its population—the poor and the underprivileged—who continue to form the crux of our enduring “development paradox”. A report by The Daily Star on Wednesday brought renewed attention to the plight of one of these groups: street kids. These children, who are believed to be in their millions, spread out across all major cities, live a dangerous life and are subject to various forms of abuse and exploitation. Our report mentions a study by an NGO that says that 75 percent of the children are involved in child labour. Besides the often hazardous work that they're forced to do by nefarious gangs, they are subjected to early marriage, sexual harassment, drug abuse and so on. Often organisations working to provide basic schooling to them have found that these children are not allowed to go to school by the gangsters who control them.
Evidently, Bangladesh has yet to reach a point where it can ensure decent living for all citizens. A myriad of factors is responsible for the homelessness of these children and their parents, and needs longer term plans to address. But safety has nothing to do with one's standard of living—nor is it a difficult target to achieve for a well-meaning administration. The problem with how these children live is that their vulnerabilities are exploited almost as a matter of routine, because of a lack of protective measures and the indifference of institutions and individuals responsible for their safety which of course include law enforcement agencies. This can be understood from the fact that there has been no national survey on these children yet, which could be a starting point for their proper rehabilitation. The women and children affairs ministry and the social welfare ministry, which are primarily responsible for these children, must make it a priority that no exploitation of any kind takes place against them. They must also take all measures necessary for their proper upbringing which includes their right to live in a safe environment and the right to education.