Life on the streets

While some street children are orphans the majority have been driven from their homes by abuse, family breakdown or extreme poverty. Others are the by-product of the sex industry, turned out onto the streets while their mothers work, and yet more have been trafficked from other parts of India to be forced into labour and prostitution. From orphans seeking refuge on the station platforms to children living on the pavement with their family begging, every one of these children must fight to survive and has no positive role model to guide them towards a successful life.

Alone on the streets

At the railway stations children on their own, take refuge on lit platforms at night, hoping to protect themselves from abuse. During the day they make a few rupees by rag picking, working as coolies or in roadside food stalls. Many are ill and malnourished and often they become addicted to glue, which helps them forget the trauma of their life.

Forced into prostitution

Kolkata has several large red-light areas where young girls and boys are at great risk as they are pushed out onto the streets every night whilst their mothers work. There is also a big stigma attached to being the child of a prostitute, leaving them no option but to “join the line” and live the same life. Future Hope gives these children an alternative.

Eking an existence

Hungry and desperate, many children make a few rupees by rag picking, working as coolies or in roadside food stalls but they are often forced to work long hours for a pittance in dangerous conditions.

Resorting to drugs

Some children enjoy the freedom life on the streets can offer, and may even earn reasonable money scouring trains, sorting rubbish or becoming expert petty thieves. But, they remain vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and are exposed to extremely unhygienic conditions. To cope with all this many resort to glue sniffing and drug taking, both growing problems in Kolkata, and ones which can seriously damage a child’s brain and reduce life expectancy.

Families living below the poverty line

Many children live in the slums in makeshift shelters, often dangerously close to the railway tracks with no water or electricity. Whilst trains pass by every 20 minutes, the slum-dwellers do most of their daily chores on the train tracks, putting them in danger of accidents. Many more live on the street under plastic sheets with parents who are often heavily addicted and incapable of keeping them safe.