(As told to Abhishek Jha)
I am Shivdayal. I am 11 years old, and an assistant manager at a bank for children in street situations. This is my story.
My home is in Jonjro, a small village in the Lohardaga district of Jharkhand. When I was eight, I was sent to Delhi by a relative and left at a shelter.
When I first arrived at the shelter, I was always tongue-tied. I hesitated to speak my mind, scared I would say something wrong. This changed in time. Now I speak to other children freely, and not just for small talk. I also work on a radio programme with them that is broadcast every Thursday at 4:45 pm on the FM Rainbow channel of the All India Radio.
This change has been possible because of my association with the bank. Let me tell you more about it.
It’s not a real bank, but it does function like one. We deposit our savings as we would at any bank, and there are managers. The savings of our bank are then deposited in a mainstream bank, which returns interest to our bank. This interest that our bank gets is distributed proportionately among the children depending on their savings.
Called Children’s Development Khazana (CDK), our bank is a sort of savings programme which we children ourselves run under the guidance of Butterflies, an NGO for children in street situations. You have to be a child between 9 and 18 years to be a member. Anybody with Re 1 or more can open an account in this bank.
The bank teaches us how we can stop being a spendthrift, but it’s also a life-skills training programme. Let me explain.
I got interested in the bank when I saw what it could do for me. I had Rs 1500 on me when I first came to the shelter. I used to spend most of it just buying food.When I joined the bank and deposited the money, I got some interest in return. Then I thought, ‘Yaar, I get interest for my saved money. If I save more, I will get more interest.’ So I started spending more wisely and starting saving money instead. Now I have about Rs 5000 in my account.
Then I saw that the children who became managers of the bank also got to learn things like maintaining cash books and ledgers. I too wanted to learn this skill. I thought handling all that money would help improve my speed in solving maths problems.
Three months ago, in a General Body Meeting of the members of the CDK for elections, I decided to stand for elections. I got elected as the Assistant Child Volunteer Manager (ACVM).
This position has also taught me how to take decisions. For example, an Advance Committee decides which children can be given an advance, which is like a bank giving a loan. So we have to look at the child’s personality and behaviour and decide whether they will be able to return the money. We check whether they save money, whether their bank balance remains active, and so on.
With all these skills, I now want to become an IPS officer when I grow up and work towards the welfare of my village. But I know it’s not going to be easy and there are going to be hurdles. Right now, I don’t have enough money for education and I am definitely going to need a lot of it in the future, especially if I want to become an IPS officer.
Money is a huge problem for children in street situations like me. We don’t get enough support from the government, which then stops us from getting an education and pushes us to drug addiction. The government should make a lot of shelter homes, so that we get a healthy diet for our physical and mental growth. What I don’t understand is how drugs get sold when the government wants children to not get addicted to them.
The government should also help children who aren’t able to study. For example, the way you can get primary education with a small amount, colleges should also not take a lot of money. In fact, I would say, the government should make education free, so that everybody is able to study.
You can also help as an ordinary citizen. When children walk the streets in dirty clothes, they are neither recognised nor respected. You should not do that. If you were in a similar situation, you would also feel bad about being treated that way, wouldn’t you? But nobody understands this.
Some organisations do provide help to children who get separated from their parents.For example, the bank helped me not only improve my calculation, but has given me the confidence and optimism to plan my life. In fact, I help other children too now. And if the help keeps coming in, hopefully, I will plan a better future for my entire village, maybe the entire state of Jharkhand, and eventually, my country.