The Real Slumdogs – Street Children in India

homeless children in india

There was a lot of fuss made over Danny Boyle’s portrayal of India in Slumdog Millionaire, Some Indians were dismayed by the extreme conditions of poverty and desperation shown in the movie. The truth is that conditions of  street children in India  is not as bad as Boyle shows it, in fact they are much worse.  The 10 million street children of India is 10% of the world’s total. We are face these children everyday, we see their dirty faces as they knock on the windows of cars, begging for money or selling us flowers or newspapers.

Street children  refers to those children without a stable home or shelter. There are three major categories of street children:

  • Children who live on the street with their families and often work on the street. There may be children from migrated families, or temporarily migrated and are likely to go back to their homes.
  • Children who live on the street by themselves or in groups and have remote access or contact with their families in the villages. Some children travel to the cities for the day or periods of time to work and then return to their villages.
  • Children who have no ties to their families such as orphans, refugees and runaways.

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I never really understood how bad living on the streets could until  I came across this article in Times of India by  and it really made cry,

The show begins at night. After the sun is swallowed by the smog andneon lights wash the city in yellow, Rahul and his gang emerge from under the flyover. They all look similar — grubby feet, frayed rags, scarred faces, red eyes and brassy hair. They are all under 11. Walking with the swagger of his favourite filmstar, the puny urchin produces a cigarette from his pocket, lights it and blows the smoke into the faces of six other kids who beg for a drag. But Rahul is high: one moment he is Dabangg; another, he is Romeo the kutta. Then he offers the fag to his buddies, but at a price. He punches one, yanks out Rs 5 from another’s pocket, and then grabs Guddi, the only girl in the pack. She screams and giggles as he pulls her towards a dark corner. Then a boy shouts police’ and the group vanishes into the dark garbage dump they call home. 

These are India’s invisible children who have fallen through the cracks. During the day, they sleep amid stinking waste and at night they collect plastic bottles, sell flowers, clean cars, beg or steal — all around a flyover in south Delhi. They all had a home once. They all have a story to tell, but they clamp up when asked about it. Rahul wants a dibba of “good boot polish” before talking. He eats it. “Otherwise, I can’t sleep,” says the 10-year-old who ran away from his home in Gwalior to escape an alcoholic father and a cruel stepmother. Others have similar tales: Guddileft home when her mother tried to push her into prostitution; Guddu’s father beat him mercilessly; Raju was too scared of a teacher at school, and Pappu just got tired of hunger. They took a train to Delhi, got snuffed by gangs roaming the platforms and since then, it has been a story of rape, torture, drugs and starvation..Continue 


Street children mostly live in open air spaces. There are few to no shelters available in the cities for homeless children. Some may live in a temporary constructed hut or the house of their employer. Majority of street children work. Almost 50% of street children are self-employed as rag-pickers, hawkers, and shoeshine boys, while others work in shops and establishments. Their work hours range between 10-13 hours a day. These children are exposed to high health hazards as population and unhygienic conditions of living. Having no shelter they are constantly exposed to environmental conditions of heat, cold and rain.

According to Slumdogs, a NGO dedicated to helping such children the main causes for their homelessness are:

  • Abuse: Many of the street children who have run away from home have done so because they were beaten or sexually abused. Tragically, their homelessness can lead to further abuse through exploitative child labour and prostitution. Not only does abuse rob runaway children of their material security, but it also leaves them emotionally scarred.
  • Gender Discrimination:In Indian Society females are often discriminated against. Their health, education, prosperity and freedom are all impacted. The problem is worse in conservative Rajasthan than almost anywhere else in India. For example, because girls carry the liability of dowry and leave the family home after marriage, parents may prefer to have male offspring. Many babies are aborted, abandoned or deliberately neglected and underfed simply because they are girls.
  • Poverty: Poverty is the prime cause of the street children crisis. Children from well-off families do not need to work, or beg. They live in houses, eat well, go to school, and are likely to be healthy and emotionally secure. Poverty dumps a crowd of problems onto a child. Not only do these problems cause suffering, but they also conspire to keep the child poor throughout his/her life. In order to survive, a poor child in India will probably be forced to sacrifice education and training; without skills the child will, as an adult, remain at the bottom of the economic heap.


Many street children also face harassment by municipal authorities and police. One -third of street children complain of persecution by such authorities. Street children also face abuse from their family members, employers and other people. The right to play of a street child is almost  nonexistent as they do not have access to recreational facilities and often venture into activities available to them on the street such as drug abuse, gambling, drinking, etc

 The Indian embassy estimated 314,700 street children in cities like Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Kanpur, Bangalore and Hyderabad and around 100,000 street children in Delhi. In order to provide services to this vulnerable group of children the Government of India began the Integrated Programme for Street Children.  Many NGO’s and government agencies are working together to help these children, steps like  extending extra health facilities, establishing nutrition programs, providing vocational training, protecting children from abuse, distributing dry-food poly packs, providing night shelters, providing ration cards, and creating bathing and toilet facilities are some of the steps that may lead to improvement in these children’s life. If you are willing to help and know more check out the link below.


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