Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai's Street Children

Terrorist attacks have thrust into the news the city that is increasingly known by its official name, Mumbai, but that some expats and residents still stubbornly call Bombay. There's lots more on that horrific news on a dedicated Wiki page and on the BBC web site and in live coverage streamed from CNN-IBN and NDTV. Enough words flying around.

There is another Mumbai story that surfaces from time to time and then goes away–the story of the city's street children. Here from 2005 is an account of a then 15-year old, Rukshana, from a feature in the New Internationalist.

's life is full of movement. She zips through Mumbai's suburbs working wherever she can. At 15, she is her 11-year-old sister Deepa's sole carer. When she first agreed to talk with us, Deepa had gone missing, leaving Rukshana frantic: something that her story only hints at. For as you will read, Rukshana has had to deal with greater challenges."

An estimated 250,000 children live on the streets of Mumbai. Here is Julian Crandall Hollick's 2002 multi-part series broadcast on NPR, Sadak Chaap. And here is a web site created and maintained by former street children. Several street children lost their lives in the 2006 blasts in Mumbai. This 2008 attack was aimed at the rich and powerful, and it's questionable whether anyone will even ask how many children may have died in it.

Finally, here is Voice, a non-profit group working for the welfare of street children. The mission of Voice is "helping children write their future."


  1. I read about a group of these children a few years ago in the Guardian. The article was so sad, I could barely get through it. These kids have such a hard life and such a dubious future. Charities like Action Aid and Christian Aid can only offer them a drop in a bucket, but I suppose at least it is something.

    Thank you for remembering them --and reminding us.

  2. I remember seeing that Guardian piece. And of course now we have Slumdog Millionaire playing in theaters. But these things come and go, and the kids remain.

  3. Hi Uma, Thanks for posting this. It is so easy to forget what a different world it is for these girls. I hope for a day when kids can be kids and just learn, play, and have a childhood - even in the slums of Mumbai. If that day ever comes it will be thanks to VOICE and others like them.

  4. hi uma,
    is it true that there are ppl who can remove a kid's eye so that he can earn more money through begging? i hope that it is just an exagerration in the slumdog millionaire movie?

  5. I have to confess I haven't seen the movie yet--I usually wait till the hype dies down around films like this and judge for myself. Do I know personally that this doesn't happen? No. But that's a bit like asking, is it true that kids in the US cut themselves and why is this allowed?