Street Children

Background

India has made massive strides in reducing poverty over the last couple of decades, reducing the rate to about 20%.  But huge problems remain, made worse by rapid population growth.  And when the poverty line is set at around just 25 pence a day, a life lived just above it is hardly one without serious struggles. 

 

Children often suffer the brunt of this.  Over 17 million are out of school according to some official figures; the real number is probably higher and in many cases enrolment only exists on paper, with teachers or facilities.  In some areas up to 50% of children are under-nourished.   Mental and physical abuse is widespread.

 

These factors, and a lack of opportunity in villages and small towns, push a constant stream of children towards the big cities. Others are pulled by the lure of employment, friends or perhaps the distant dream of Bollywood stardom. 

 

Runaways who flee from villages and towns and sooner or later arrive in the cities are the children SBT started working with nearly three decades ago.  But there are other reasons too for children being on the streets.  A disturbing number are trafficked.    And there are the communities where children and their parents live together on the streets.

 

Delhi

One of the world’s most historic cities. 16 million people in an urban sprawl that crosses state borders.  A climate of harsh extremes that make life on the streets even tougher: up to 48 degrees in June; almost freezing in winter. As the main hub of northern India’s railways, Delhi’s four main stations draw in migrants mainly from the poorer states to the east Uttar Pradesh, Bihar as well as Nepal.  Children who run away from homes in these places are likely to end up in Delhi at some point. Just at New Delhi station, about a thousand such children arrive every year and are met by SBT counsellors and field workers. 

 

 

Street Children in the capital

“How many street kids are there in Delhi?” It’s a common question but not an easy one to answer. Street children are by definition almost impossible to count, though many have tried. In 2011 Save The Children published one of the most recent surveys and came up with a total figure of just over 50,000 children – rather below some estimates.  These were some of the other findings:

 

  • 36% are children from street families
  • 29% are children who work on the streets
  • 28% are street-living children
  • 20% are girls
  • 87% work, and on average 7 hours a day, 6 days a week, to earn about Rs70 (less than £1) a day.
  • The most common occupations are, in decreasing order: rag-picking, street vending, begging, working in stalls and shops, working in dhabas.
  • 40% sleep in slums and about 9% at each of: railway stations, markets, and under bridges and flyovers
  • In India

    There are believed to be about 11 million street children in India.  No two children’s stories are identical, but there are some clear common factors at the root of : poverty, hunger and abuse.

     

    India has made massive strides in fighting poverty over the last couple of decades, reducing the rate to about 20%.  But huge problems remain, made worse by rapid population growth.  Despite major development in some of northern India’s poorer states, thousands of villages continue to lack the facilities that are available in cities.   Tens of millions of children remain out of school, or are enrolled but in places without adequate teachers or facilities.   All these factors help push a constant stream of children towards the big cities. Others are pulled by the lure of employment, friends or perhaps the distant dream of Bollywood stardom.

     

    Runaways who flee from villages and towns and sooner or later arrive in the cities are the children SBT started working with nearly three decades ago.  But there are other reasons too for children being on the streets.  A disturbing number are trafficked.    And there are the communities where children and their parents live together on the streets.

  • In Delhi

    A recent study by Save The Children suggested that there are slightly more than 50,000 street children in Delhi.  Others have put the number much higher than that.

     

    As a railway hub for Northern India, Delhi attracts runaways and, even worse, trafficked children from across the poorer areas to the south and east: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand or West Bengal.   But the city also has enough social problems of its own that cause thousands of children to be deprived of a proper home.