These 15 Photos Show Why Many Children Have Nothing To Celebrate On Children’s Day

Posted on November 14, 2016 in #TheInvisibles, PhotoNama, Specials, Staff Picks
STC logoEditor’s Note: With #TheInvisibles, Youth Ki Awaaz and Save the Children India have joined hands to advocate for the rights of children in street situations in India. Share your stories of what you learned while interacting with street children, what authorities can do to ensure their rights are met, and how we can together fight child labour. Add a post today!

By Rajen Nair:

It was when I lost my hearing in 2000 and had to wind up my trading business, that I did a professional course in journalism and photography. Today, I am a photojournalist based in Mumbai, and besides teaching photography to deaf children and children battling cancer, I am also a great fan of street photography. Trying to capture something interesting from the seemingly mundane, everyday lives lived on the street is both demanding and inspiring.

My photo stories are often about children living on the streets, or from underserved communities, who live in slums. I didn’t consciously choose to work with those who have come to be labelled as “street children”, but the fact that they are the most vulnerable members in our society and need our attention more than anyone else, is what pushed me in this direction. Over the years, I have interacted with a lot of these children and their families. I often tell the children’s mothers to send them to school, so that when they grow up and work, they can take their parents out of the streets.

I’ve learned that many of these children are physically abused, don’t attend school and are forced to do petty work, or beg. Sometimes, they fall prey to drugs and alcohol addiction, and even crime to survive. I use my camera mainly to highlight this plight of theirs and the injustices they face through my lens. After all, it is our collective responsibility to rehabilitate them, give them good homes, education and skills development. Only if we are all aware of their struggles, we can make a positive difference in their lives and that’s what I try to do.


Amidst the chaos of a noisy street near Churchgate, this little boy was doing his homework, undistracted. Children studying on the street in Mumbai streets is a common sight.


This cheerful boy is a cancer patient, awaiting his turn for treatment on a footpath outside a Mumbai hospital. Many young patients like him come from outside Mumbai for treatment. They need to wait for hours or even days in the city. Since they can’t afford rental homes, they spend their days on the streets, eating and sleeping there.


This young boy, too, is a cancer patient who had all the way to Mumbai for treatment. Unable to afford high room rentals in the city, he is forced to live on the streets and set up a temporary shelter, here.


Outside an electronic shop in Chembur, a suburb in East Mumbai, this little boy takes a break to do something many children enjoy – watch TV.


In a public garden outside the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station in Mumbai, this little boy was watching the passing world from the wall fence. He reminds me of my own childhood and how I loved spending time looking out of the window and still do.


Goddess Mariamma
A group of children from Mumbai’s streets lie about at Marine Drive, watching the sea and the famous Mumbai skyline, at the other end. There is so much disparity between the rich and the poor; I often wonder whether these little ones could swim against the tide of poverty and make it big.


These young lads are rag picking, searching for plastic waste – to re-sell and earn a living. Here they are taking a break on a flyover at Dharavi, Mahim. Living a tough life, they sometimes fall prey to drugs and bad company.


Here in Kumbharwada in Dharavi, little children are helping their parents by carrying heavy clay pots on their heads. Recently, the Government revised the child labour law, but many activists are objecting to the clause that allows children to assist parents in family or household businesses and jobs.


Having nowhere else to go, many children are left alone on the streets while their parents work. In this picture, the older sister was taking care of the younger one outside the historic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station.


During the exciting Palki procession event, a weekly tradition in Maharashtra to remember Shirdi Sai Baba, I came across these toddlers, whose bodies had been painted with red spots and ashes; they were asking for alms.


This little girl was selling plastic wares in the middle of the chaotic Mulund market in Mumbai. She has such an innocent look. I have observed that often parents exploit little children for child labour.


A little girl is seen selling coloured Rangoli powder during the time of Diwali festival. Such instances of parents using their kids to help them, is common to Mumbai’s streets.


A child performs a risky balancing rope act in the busy eastern suburb of Kurla. To help carry on the family occupation of street performances, her education is foregone.


This little girl earns a living by singing songs on Mumbai local trains every day. Here, she is seen taking a break from this, and watching the world go by from a moving train.


While travelling on a local train, I saw this toddler lying on the railway platform. I got off the running local train to take this picture, and can only assume that this child’s mother might be employed by a railways’ contractor.


Youth Ki Awaaz, along with Save The Children, is curating photo stories of India’s invisible children. If you’ve taken a photograph of something that moved you (or disturbed you), share your photo story with us via email (, Tweet to us @YouthKiAwaaz, message us on Facebook, or tag us on Instagram. Use hashtags #TheInvisibles and #EveryLastChild. The best photo stories will be published across Youth Ki Awaaz platforms!

Rajen Nair is a freelance photojournalist based in Mumbai, where he also teaches photography to children with disabilities and children battling cancer. You can Tweet to him @rajennair.

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