BURNING CHILDHOOD: LIFE IN HYDERABAD STREETS

The curtain rises at night. After the sun is enveloped completely by the smog and street lights cover the Secunderabad in yellow, Rohan and his team egress from under the flyover. They all are aged fewer than 10. They all look similar – muddy boots, dirty feet, unclean cloths and badly scarred faces. Walking with the prance of his favourite hero Nagarjuna, Teulgu filmstar, the shrimpy rohan pick a lollypop from his pocket, open it and eat it by looking at the other children. Rohan is proud, no others questions him. He is the gang leader. Then he offers the lollypop to his buddies. He jerks out two rupees from Sanjays pocket. After some time the group vanishes into the city streets.
Rohan has no home but the streets, and no family support. He moves from place to place, living in shelters and abandoned buildings. Manoj visit his family regularly and might even return every night to sleep at home, but he spends most days and some nights on the street because of poverty at home. Sanjay lives in sidewalks or city squares with the rest of his family. Sanjay’s family is displaced due to poverty. They live a nomadic life, carrying their possessions with them.
These are among India’s promising youth who are doomed to unhappiness. They live on the garbage left between the soles of commuter’s feet. They collect sweets from the station floors and search around for crumbs in the trains. Many young men choose the streets of the city so as to save as much money as they can to send to their homes. Fifteen year old krishna sleeps in the sidewalk near Rathifile bus station. He recalls his memories of his house and family. His father’s income was not sufficient to meet the needs of his family. Many times they had no food for days. His mother used to scold his little brothers and sisters who cried only because they were hungry. He cannot bear this painful scene. He was very worried. He says, “Every next meal for his family is a challenge. So I ran away from home. I thought I will make money after reaching Hyderabad. I hoped Hyderabad would give me better prospects. But I could not find much work”. Seventeen year old kutta begs to support his ailing mother in their village in bowenpally. He does not blame his grown brothers for abandoning them, saying they have to take care of their own families. For all of them the future just means the next meal. Street children are stubborn form of denial, and it does not seem easy for children to escape it once they slip into it. There seem many roads that lead boys and girls to make the city streets their home.
“This is my bungalow, on that side is my bedroom, across there is my bathroom, and in that corner is my kitchen,” Swetha says. The house that she pointed to was a dirty portion of a sidewalk near secunderabad railway station. Her house is actually a small hall, but for her it’s a bungalow. The kitchen, bathroom, dining hall and bedroom that she spoke of were a corner of the same sidewalk. They have no electric facility, and street lights are their only source of light. “We do not have to experience power failures like all of you” she added ironically.
The parents often socialize their children based upon their own experience. Street children’s parents also suffered abuse, neglect and ignorance from their own parents. Parents of street children repeat the same behavior with their own child, which contributes to the children choosing the street as their home. It is reported that abuse as their main reason for leaving home. This past of abuse is translated to their behavior on the streets. This behavior often leads to some form of aggression, which has led to the association of street children with violence and immoral activities. It is hard to imagine a child at the age of 10 or 12 as a drug addict. Excessive use of drugs is very widespread among the street children, the most popular being inhalants, alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. It is easy to get their hands on glue, nail polish remover, hair spray, correction pen, ink, paint, varnish and other legal and common goods. Therefore this type of abuse of drugs is also a method of coping with life’s daily struggles. They feel comfortable and relieved after the excessive use of drugs. Stealing operates effectively within their street system and is the basic method of survival. Children form groups on the street for the purposes of protection and self defense. They beg together, sleep together and carry out their daily activities as a group.
“Initiatives have been taken to assist street children in Hyderabad region, often through shelters. Many programs have designed to provide safety, healthcare, counseling, education, vocational training, legal aid, and other social services. We are offering much-needed love and care” says Rajalaksmi, Regional deputy director of Women development and Child welfare department, Amerpet.
“The pathetic conditions of street children often lead them to thefts, robberies, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, murders and other criminal activities. These childrens if found doing wrong things should be sent to child welfare department for self improvement instead of being tortured by the police and the public” says Rahna khader, a Government employee.
Near Kumar theatre at the Kachiguda railway station, there is a small night shelter run by an NGO, LSN Foundation (L.S NAYAR foundation). They provide a safe, secure shelter and a hot cooked meal for street children and homeless people. This is Hyderabad’s only shelter for the homeless and it has room for about 35 individuals. Users pay Rs. 15 for dinner and night stay. A campaign is organised by LSN Foundation in every ten days. Homeless people get a shave, a haircut, soap and shampoo and the opportunity to bath at a public toilet as a part of the campaign. A medical camp has also been set up and the street children’s and homeless senior citizens get a health check up. “The government should provide us home and good education. I am hard working. I will have a great future “says Mena, another street child from kachiguda.
The Rainbow Home in Mushirabad provides schooling for street girls. This Rainbow home is run by an NGO, Aman Biradari. This residential school for street girls was started over 2 years ago at the Mushirabad Government High School. Many kids which are enrolled in this school are either abandoned or orphans, who have been deprived of their right to education. They started the school in an unused building. According to them there are many such unused government buildings across Hyderabad. Children in rainbow homes are provided all basic amenities such as food, clothing, books and health care. The first objective of rainbow home is to teach them the basics like alphabets and numbers. Hundreds of students in these homes are now mainstreamed into schools after completion of the course and many are also pursuing their higher studies. There is about 17 rainbow home – nine for girls and eight for boys – located in government schools in the Hyderabad region which is run by different NGO’s. These Rainbow homes are an effort by Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) to ensure that the unfortunate children, deprived of their right to education, stay and study in the schools. These NGOs serve as caretakers. The government is now taking the rainbow home model for street children to other parts of the state. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has started various activities for the needs of the homeless street children. Sannihita, Bala Tejassu, and Ashrita are the other NGO’s which are working for the welfare of street children in Hyderabad.
The government should plan to open more night shelters and schooling facilities for street children. Thus, it could strengthen the relationship between the government and homeless citizens of Hyderabad. The street children belong to the situation of insecurity and struggle for existence. The existence of street children is viewed as a significant problem, covering youth of their humanity and loading them with the everyday concern of survival. This growing issue is evident in throughout the Andhra Pradesh, its presence in Hyderabad is the most studied. The general public believes street children as an unwanted burden on the city. They are seen as barriers that come in the way of the city’s beautification.

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