The world sleeps and I rise
For in darkness there’s solace
Nothing to hold back,
Nothing to drive
I seek what is not offered,
I dream what is not real
I patrol in my reign
And when danger dawns, I surrender.
I belong to no-one, I belong nowhere.
A piece of cloth is their mattress, a tree their rooftop and scrap from the nearby trash are their most prized possessions. You find them on pavements, near bus shelters, under the flyovers, at the railway stations and at the traffic signals, living a conspicuous and yet secretive and abstruse life. We have accepted them as one of those harsh realities about which ‘nothing can be done’ and hence homeless street children have camouflaged in our society, not even drawing a second glance from us.
Source: www. presstv.ir
A Google search, and we are confronted with various stats. Indian embassy estimates that around 3,14,000 street children live on the streets of Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai alone. UNICEF says there are 11 million homeless children in India bereft of all the essential needs that you can think of. Another estimation by Heart For India, an NGO reveals the number to be 20 million. While the actual figures might never be known, the fact remains that if you live in an Indian city, you will probably encounter a homeless child every time you step out of your house. This demonstrates the gravity of the issue.
Try presuming the age of a kid living on the streets and chances are your guess will fall short-atleast by a good 4-5 years. Addiction to cheap drugs, lack of medical aids and living on the edge every single day takes a toll on them resulting in acute malnutrition and chronic diseases. And yet, we see them polishing shoes, selling flowers, working at food joints and toiling as ragpickers. Their meagre earnings are shelled out on alcohol, drugs, ‘paying their dues’ to the police and municipality officials.
The drug culture is as much a menace in rural India as it is in the cities. Migration, forced labour, abuse, neglect and stress force them to turn to alcohol, cigarettes and gutka from a very young age. These kids turn into vagabonds and get muddled up in the battle to make ends meet.
The girls living on the streets don’t sleep in the night. Not hard to decipher why. When a girl isn’t safe in her home, what chance does she have on the streets?
Homeless children are difficult to approach. They might not reveal to you their real name, age or facts about their living conditions. They have witnessed the surveillance of the police and sympathy of the reporters and activists and yet not much has changed for them. Laws and rights are unheard of on the streets here as child development schemes of the government, right to education and other basic human rights elude them. They are at the mercy of municipal and police officials who often harass them and people like us who detest them and drive them away because of their constant nagging for alms. Living on the streets has made them wary of people.
Most of them grow up to a life not very different. Lack of a permanent residence doesn’t allow them to have a bank account, book train tickets, have a voters ID and are deprived of other basic entitlements. The identity crisis they face is much more complicated than the average teenager faces. Isn’t it ironical that we make everything pretty much difficult for them because they can’t afford a house? Mockery of rights!
We have found our own ways to deal with the issue. Some of us are deeply concerned about the money being misused for drugs hence refrain from offering money to them. While some others of us, are empathetic and give them all the pennies lying in our wallets. Both, are very perceptive reactions of course, but neither contribute in solving the crux of the problem. What would then, you might ask? The answers are myriad, only if we as society, as government and as people care enough to look for them.
Source: Henna Lakhani (Flicker)
Leaf Society runs a Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme, wherein runaway and dropout kids are rehabilitated and cared for. With proper counselling and guidance, hopes are reborn. Join us in our endeavour.
Krishna is a pursuing her MBA in Communication Management from Symbiosis Institute Of Media and Communication, Pune. She has a keen interest in the social and development sector. She also loves watching movies and travelling.