This Indian girl was begging with her younger siblings in the street of Hazarimal Somani Road, which is situated near the Victoria Station in Mumbai, India. Street begging is one of the major issues of Indian society, and many efforts are made to keep children away from street for instance with education.
It is estimated that there are over 300,000 street children in Mumbai, Calcutta, Madras, Kanpur, Bangalore and Hyderabad combined and about 100,000 in Delhi alone. In this spotlight the photographer Kristian Bertel reflects on the topic.
Life conditions of street children in India
A street child in India is someone for whom the street and as you can say in the widest sense of the word, including places like unoccupied dwellings, wasteland and so on and that place has become his or her habitual abode and or the source of livelihood of the child and who is inadequately protected, supervised or directed by responsible adults. As written in the beginning of this blog post, it is estimated that there are more than 400,000 street children in India exist. Mainly because of family conflict, they come to live on the streets and take on the full responsibilities of caring for themselves, including working to provide for and protecting themselves. As a photographer he portrayed some of these children in the streets of India. Though the street children do sometimes band together for greater security, they are often exploited by employers and the police. As a wandering traveler and a documenting photographer it is obvious to see that these children and their many vulnerabilities require specific legislation and attention from the government and other organisations to improve their condition of their life in India. In the early years of research on street children, the term 'street child' included any child that worked on the street. From research, however, different categories of children on the streets have been distinguished, while still recognizing that children's complex experiences are difficult to define.
Photo of street children begging in Mumbai in India. As street children must provide for themselves, work is a very important aspect of their lives. In many of the photographer's photos this can be seen and he is interested in a child's rights and children's rights.
Categories of children on the street
From research there has been developed four categories of children on the street: Children who work on the street but return to their families at night, children who work on the street but whose family ties are dwindling, children who live and work with their families on the street, and children who work and live on their own on the street. The term 'street child' has come to refer only to the last group and as a traveling photographer it is gripping to see how these young children are running barefeet between cars begging.
Photo of a street child in India. Factors which have given rise to the increase in number of street children in India include poverty, family break-ups, armed conflicts, natural and man-made disasters, lack of employment opportunities and the attraction of cities.
Vulnerable group of children in India
While 18 million children work on the streets of India and some of them are portrayed in this blog post, it is estimated that only five to twenty percent of them are truly homeless and disconnected from their families. Because the street children in India have unique vulnerabilities, the amount of time they spend on the street, their livelihood depending on the street, and their lack of protection and care from adults, they are a subgroup of the Indian population that deserve specific attention in order to ensure that their needs are known. As the most vulnerable group of children in India, they need to be understood as much as possible. There is currently no official statistic of the number of street children in India and the primary reason for this is that it is difficult to obtain accurate data about them because of their floating character. Street children usually have no proof of identification and move often. Of the 50,000 people in India that are officially reported as leaving home annually, fourtyfive percent are under sixteen years old, this number, though, is likely very low. Various studies have formulated estimates of certain cities. Thirty years ago, for instance, it was estimated that there were at least 100,000 street children in both Kolkata and Mumbai. Overall, estimates for the total number of street children in India range from 400,000 to 800,000. The street children in India choose to leave their families and homes for strategic reasons. Three hypotheses have been put forth in an attempt to explain their choices like urban poverty, aberrant families, and urbanization. Evidence can to some degree support all three of these hypotheses.
In one study of 1,000 street children living in Mumbai conducted twentyfive years ago almost forty percent of street children said they left home because of problems and fights with family, and a little over twenty percent said they left because of family poverty, and as little as almost four percent said that they wanted to see the city. This study illustrates the trend found by most researchers, that the most children leave their families to live on the street because of family problems. Family problems include such things as death of a parent, alcoholism of father, strained relationships with stepparents, parent separation, abuse, and family violence. Additionally, street children usually come from female-headed households.
The Republic of India is the seventh largest and second-most populated country in the world. Due to the acceleration in economic growth, an economic rift has appeared, with just over thirtytwo percent of the population living below the poverty line. Owing to unemployment, increasing rural-urban migration, the attraction of city life, and a lack of political will, India has developed one of the largest child labor forces in the world. In this picture a street girl in India is looking for money.
Reasons for leaving their home
Most children who leave home to live on the streets come from slums or low cost housing, both which are areas of high illiteracy, drug use, and unemployment. Children usually transfer their lives to the streets through a gradual process, they may at first only stay on the street a night or two. Gradually they will spend more time away from home until they do not return. Once on the streets, children sometimes find that their living conditions and physical and mental health is better than at home. However, this fact speaks to the poor conditions of their homes rather than good conditions in the street. Street conditions are far from child-friendly. Once they leave home, many street children move around often because of the fear that their relatives will find them and force them to return home. As street children must provide for themselves, work is a very important aspect of their lives. In many of the photographer's photos this can be seen also with the Indian street youth. Unfortunately, working conditions for street children are often very poor because they are confined to working in the informal sector, which is unregulated by the government. In Mumbai, 50,000 children are illegally employed by 11,750 hotels, restaurants, canteens, tea shops, and eating places. Because of street children's lack of protection from a family and the law, employers often exploit them, making them virtual prisoners, sometimes withholding pay, and abusing them. Employers that would not mistreat the children often will not hire them because they are seen as too great of a risk.
Street children girl walk from car to car in downtown Mumbai in her effort to get a couple of rupees. It is more common for street children to be male and the average age is fourteen. Although adolescent girls are more protected by families than boys are, when girls do break the bonds they are often worse off than boys are, as they are lured into prostitution.
Street children are working
Because of the low pay from employers, street children in India often choose to be self-employed or work multiple jobs. In fact, the majority of them are self-employed. One of the most common economic activities done by the children is scavenging for recyclable materials, such as plastic, paper, and metal. Other jobs include cleaning cars, petty vending, selling small items such as balloons or sweets, selling newspapers or flowers, begging, shining shoes, working in small hotels, working on construction sites and working in roadside stalls or repair shops. Street children, especially the older children, are also sometimes engaged in activities such as stealing, pick-pocketing, drug-peddling, and prostitution, though this is a small proportion. Most of the street children work 8 to 10 hours total each day in their various economic activities. Street children in India are a manifestation of societal malfunctioning and an economic and social order that does not take timely preventative action. Thus, many scholars believe that fixing the problems of street children depend on addressing the causal factors of their situations. Additionally, as these causal factors are addressed, help for the immediate situation of street children must also be given.
An Indian street boy photographed in downtown Mumbai, India. Street children is used as a catch-all term, but covers children in a wide variety of circumstances and with a wide variety of characteristics. Policymakers and service providers struggle to describe and assist such a sub-population. Individual girls and boys of all ages are found living and working in public spaces, and are visible in the great majority of the world's urban centers.
Something can be done to help street children
India has set in place various forms of public policy concerning street children over the past two decades, but they have largely been ineffective because they are uniformed by sociological, anthropological, and geographical research on street children, meaning they do not always correctly assess and address needs. However, the Consortium for Street Children has started The International Day for Street Children: Louder Together on the 12th April every year, a campaign to give a louder voice to the millions of street children all around the world so their rights cannot be ignored.
The Hope Foundation is an organisation that is dedicated to promoting the protection of street and slum children primarily in Kolkata formerly known as Calcutta and the most underprivileged in India, where they promote immediate and lasting change in their lives. Through education alone, this charity organisation has reached out to almost 25,000 children.
Another organisation called LittleBigHelp is doing a difference for street children in India. They are running an open shelter near Howrah train station in Calcutta for twentyfive boys who are living on the street and on the platforms of the station. The rough everyday lives of these young boys consist of collecting bottles and other goods left on the trains to sell and earn a few rupees to survive. LittleBigHelp offer the street children a safe alternative to the perils of the street and the station with shelter, protection, education, food, medical care, and a place to simply just be a child. Many of the boys are addicted to sniffing glue and have suffered horrific experiences in their lives and they work to secure them a better and safer future off the street and to find them a better alternative.
Let them be heard on Twitter
Use the hashtag #TweetForTheStreet and let the voices of the street children and street youth be heard on Twitter by telling the stories and the events regarding this topic.
Street child photo of a boy begging at car windows while several cars are waiting at a red light near the Mumbai station. This is a heart-gripping moment to see both as a traveler and visitor in India and as a photographer documenting the lives of the street children in India.
About the photographers work in India
When the photographer is photographing on location in India he always tries to handle his photographing subjects with the respect that they deserve. All the photos in this blog post about street children were taken near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, which is an historic railway station in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. The railway station is one of the busiest railway stations in India, serving as a terminal for both long-distance trains and commuter trains of the Mumbai Suburban Railway. "- My generally philosophy is to strive to be original in my approach to taking pictures. My aim is to tell a story and to make the viewer connect or identity with that particular image. It could be anything, from a young woman with a striking, haunting face, to idle landscapes in remote regions of Rajasthan. I think that there is beauty in the most mundane things and humanitarian stories to be told - it is reavealing it that is the key. It is all about making my ideas for a photo happen", the photograher says.
Because the street children in India have unique vulnerabilities, the amount of time they spend on the street, their livelihood depending on the street, and their lack of protection and care from adults, they are a subgroup of the Indian population that deserve specific attention in order to ensure that their needs are known. As the most vulnerable group of children in India, they need to be understood as much as possible. In this photo two Indian street children are photographed in Mumbai, India.
Children's rights are the human rights of children
Children's rights are the human rights of children with particular attention to the rights of special protection and care afforded to minors. A child as any human person who has not reached the age of eighteen years. Children's rights includes their right to association with both parents, human identity as well as the basic needs for physical protection, food, universal state-paid education, health care, and criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child, equal protection of the child's civil rights, and freedom from discrimination on the basis of the child's race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, color, ethnicity, or other characteristics. Interpretations of children's rights range from allowing children the capacity for autonomous action to the enforcement of children being physically, mentally and emotionally free from abuse, though what constitutes abuse is a matter of debate. Other definitions include the rights to care and nurturing.
Photo essays and humanitarian photography
Kristian Bertel is a dedicated and traveling photographer, seeking out faces that have a story.
"- Every street corner is a new adventure, you will never know what to expect next, and with street children it is no exception", he says. His imagery has been shown as photo essays online, documenting many aspects of the daily life particularly in India. He works as a photographer and he is available for editorial assignments all over Europe, Asia, Africa and in the Middle East. For further information and inquiries please:
Contact the photographer
More photos from India
If you are interested to see more photos and imagery from India, you can see one of the slideshows, which also appears on the photographer's website.
See the slideshow | press here