Pressing a penny into their small hands on the street, doesn’t justify it as a ‘harmless penny’. It seems so callous and pity when you see kids on the street clinging on the glass of your car asking either for a penny or for selling something on traffic signals. In the red traffic signal they get their chance to display their marketing tactic (even if not professionals). They are clearly in need, they are poor and they are so full of banter that it becomes difficult for anyone to deny them.
But wait a minute; by not denying them you are actually locking them in the cycle of poverty. This may sound rude as this penny of yours may give a meal to their family at the end of the day, which they clearly seem to need and it can’t be harmful penny at all, can it be?
Unfortunately your penny is harmful. The truth is the only person who benefits in these transactions is you who get the virtuous feeling by believing that you have contributed something to resist the dreadful poverty that you can see on the street, which incidentally is completely understandable. It doesn’t make anyone a ruthless person but this still stands wrong and here is why.
Helping the street kids by giving some rupees or buying stuff from them is a short-term solution which ensures the failure of long-term plans making it difficult to implement long-term plans of wiping poverty all together and educating these road side kids for a better life. This ensures that they remain poor and keep selling stuff on the street and traffic signals for the rest of their lives. It ensures that like their uneducated parents they will be deprived of education and a better life. It ensures a thriving labour market for young children who should not be working. Many of them are not from Delhi but came-in from other states like Rajasthan, Bihar etc. Worst is, working on the streets not only makes them poor, uneducated; it exposes these children to predators like traffickers, drug dealers and child sex traders as well as offenders.
Sushmita, a 7 months pregnant woman from Rajasthan, selling flowers/flags on the street of Delhi shared ,”Gaon me pani nehi milta aur koi kamayi bhi nehi hoti isliye seher aa gaye (we don’t get water in our village and we can’t earn there that’s why we came to the city)”. She was not sure about her age, though she seemed to be in her late teens. When enquired about the business and earning, she said, “We bring stuff from Sadar bazar and sell in the traffic signals. I and my husband together earn 400 to 500 rupees every day; we stay in footpath and eat from roadside”. Sushmita and her husband together earns around 12,000 to 15,000 approx. per month which they think is a better amount to survive and henceforth they would never think beyond this. Once they have their kid, they would repeat the same practice. They will push their kid to this clutter and the vicious cycle continues ensuring the street sellers will never send their kids to school when they can actually earn good by making money on roads.
Giving money to street kids jeopardizes their future and it attracts the parents to send their kids out to the street and beg. 8 years old Arjun from Rajasthan said, “I earn to serve alcohol to my mother and father. They thrash me if I don’t sell or beg on the street. I have a younger brother who begs with me in the traffic signal of Jor Bagh (Delhi) and we earn around 300 rupees approx. every day. At times some Sahab (Sir) comes in big car and gives a note of 500. We never went to school and we don’t even want to go to school”. Education, school, better life never fascinates these kids because all that they have learnt and heard from their parents is to excel in these street activities.
The problem here is the level of awareness. If they are earning well on the street, certainly they would not like going to school and investing time there when they can be on the road earning some extra penny. It’s not all gloomy: there are ways that people can help these kids without sustaining a system that exploits them and deprives them of a future. There has to be a firm step taken by the Government of the respective states to keep a check to find out where these people are migrating from. A well-organized system where the people need not come to explore the city street can certainly be helpful. Sushmita’s kid has the right to get education and not grow as another street vendor of Seher (Delhi)!
All photographs of this article by : MUKUND PRABHAKAR