A street child is the one “for whom the street has become his or her primary home and he/she earns their livelihood on the streets and has no adult to protect and supervise them. In India, there are around a million such street children on the streets without any guardian to look after them. They have been forced to live on streets mainly because of family issues. They work on the streets to feed and take care of themselves. But living alone that too on the streets makes them more vulnerable in certain ways. They are more likely to be exploited by their employees and in many cases the police too. The three cities in India with most of the street children are Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.
While working on the rehabilitation process, we came across different types of street children and we categorized them into four types
- Children who work on the streets but return to their parents in the night
- Children who work on the streets but whose family ties are diminishing
- Children who work together with their families on streets
- Children who live without their families and work on streets
Our primary focus is on the last type in the above list because they are most vulnerable of all and have special needs and require extra protection and attention.
There are many causes for children to land-up on streets. The pattern is almost similar in most cases. The primary reason being the rise in family problems. Many a time’s children leave their homes due to the death of a parent, divorce of parents, ill-treatment by stepparents, and alcohol addiction of father. Most of the children come from those families where the father has passed away and the sole responsibility is on the mother. These street children are more vulnerable to be kidnapped and used for begging by the kidnapper gangs which are most prevalent in the urban slums. They make them beg and live off themselves on that money.
The street children are more vulnerable to various diseases. There is a lack of nutritious food, proper sanitation and medical care among them. They usually depend on leftover foods from various hotels and restaurants or garbage bins. They are most vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and extortion as they have no adult to protect them. These street children are themselves more likely to indulge in smalltime crimes like pick-pocketing, small thefts, drug abuse, prostitution and many more. They need help and attention from the government and other non-governmental organization to improve their condition.