Patna-based social worker and SARTHI director Tarkeshwar Singh led a team of researchers in a pilot study of the lives and attitudes of 40 randomly selected "vulnerable children" living on the streets, many with their parents, in India's Buxar District.
Among the primary purposes of the study was to gain insight to provide targeted, long-term intervention. Researchers interviewed the subjects, males and females ranging in age from 5 to 18 years old, using a questionairre (attached for reference at the end of the report) which asked about their family, reasons for living on the streets, employment, healthcare consumption, attitudes about education, physical abuses sustained, substance abuse and more.
The report is a quick, interesting read. Some sample findings include:
37 of the interviewed children live with their parents on the street
29 of them report that hunger was their reason for leaving their villages to live in the city
All of them are working—many as rag pickers, some sweeping trains, others begging or polishing boots
38 of the children started working before turning 9 years old
33 report being ill while working, with about half seeking medical care at government hospitals
4 of them can read
38 of them feel that education is important
None of them is aware that there are NGOs like SARTHI dedicated to helping vulnerable children
Half report facing abuse and mistreatment by society
In writing their conclusion, the researchers acknowledge that complex social, economic and political factors are at play, and that only very limited progress can be expected until root problems are addressed.
However, in the immediate term, it is evident that measures can to be taken to spur policy makers, industries, and society as a whole to treat vulnerable children with increased sensitivity and compassion. This does not have to wait.
Further, organizations and institutions charged with assisting needy children should make greater efforts to get to know such children as individuals, helping them with counseling, non-formal education and vocational training.
The study recommends 12 concrete steps that should be taken, from increasing funding for child protection to ensuring that the Juvenile Justice Act is being adhered to in the district.
If you are interested in learning more about the study, the researchers, or SARTHI, please contact us.