In Jaipur, there are hundreds of thousands of destitute, runaway and orphaned children living hand-to-mouth. For them education is an unattainable luxury, or an irrelevance. They lose their childhoods and have little hope for a better future.
Don’t be fooled by India’s economic boom – for a vast swathe of the population the situation has not improved in generations. Hundreds of millions are trapped by caste and gender discrimination, and by the cycle of: poverty–> child labour–>no education–>poverty. These people endure some of the worst conditions experienced anywhere in the world. For instance, an Indian child is more likely to be malnourished, have inadequate sanitation, not attend school, remain illiterate and marry underage, than is a child from Africa or any other global region.
Perhaps the most disadvantaged group in India are the millions of street children who live or work on the street. Street children have fallen through society’s cracks – there are few ladders for them to climb back up. They live as their parents did and as their own children are likely to do.
Children live and work on the street because their parents are poor, or they are orphans, or they have run away from home, often to escape abuse. They are invariably malnourished, receive scant education or medical treatment, and are involved in child labour from an early age. Child prostitution and sexual abuse are also major problems, as is addiction to drugs. These children live in a different world to the emerging middle class. Taken as a separate nation, they represent one of the neediest peoples on the planet.
In Jaipur the problems of street children are chronic.
Like India, the city of Jaipur has two sides: it has prosperous jewellery and tourist industries, yet also sprawling slums and acute poverty. As the capital of the poor, desert state of Rajasthan, Jaipur has been the focal point of massive immigration during a recent series of droughts. These migrants, plus many impoverished others, live with their children in illegal makeshift shacks, tents, or on the street, and are regularly moved on by authorities.