Some among the hundreds of street children in Delhi find their way to shelter, education and a promising life

Amitabh Bachchan was a porter before he became a superstar! This might sound surprising for us, but not for the hundreds of street kids who are blinded to the fact that Coolie was just another of Mr. Bachchan’s movies. Like their matinee idol, they struggle on with life everyday to reach the velvet sheets some day.

“I earn Rs. 6,000 every month here. It’s not the money; it’s the respect I get, that is why I work. I can rest here, it is a comfortable job, definitely better than being on the streets,” said 18-year-old Ansarul, who now works at a CNG station near Munirka. Ansarul used to live on the streets of Ber Sarai, but now stays in a one-room apartment.

He was groomed by the Khoj Foundation — an organisation that has worked with street children since 2005 that has now started a school for them in Munirka.

“Jamshed, another 18-year-old from Ber Sarai, now works as a gatekeeper with Bhushar Power Steel in Connaught Place and is now in Class 5, through NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling). He earns Rs. 6,000 per month,” said Ruby Bedi, coordinating manager of Khoj.

Various organisations are working towards making street children realise their dreams and potential. They employ street educators, who build a rapport with the children devoid of parental support.

Most of the kids are brought to the city to work as labourers by their relatives or villagers and are later abandoned. They are then fast subjected to substance abuse, violence, lack of health and hygiene and proximity to anti-social elements.

Through voluntary intervention, many children have managed to secure well-paid jobs in hotels like Radisson, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, CNG pumps, toll booths, posh eateries and various other places where they work as accountants, beauticians, tourist guides, office boys, dancers, theatre artists, watchmen, housekeepers, tailors and photographers.

“We rescue the children and educate them at our centres. We have 700 to 800 kids successfully enrolled in government schools,” said Sanjay Gupta, founder, trustee and executive director of Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA), Gautam Nagar.

The organisation believes in empowering children through a non-institutional approach and has established an indirect contact with 4,000 children in India, starting from Delhi, Noida, Mathura, Agra and Gwalior to Jhansi.

Outfits like CHETNA and Salaam Baalak Trust, with help from the police, have their task forces appointed in zones like railway stations, where many runaway children are apprehended.

They are first taken to the police stations and then to shelter homes.

“Initially we try to get the children to reunite with their families, but if that is not possible, we educate them, enrol them in school and eventually help them get a job,” said A.K. Tiwari, executive council member of Salaam Balak Trust.