Editor’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!
Impact: This photostory was awarded the Shishushree Award 2018 Best Reporting in New Media English from West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
I have worked across many parts of the country as a photographer, sometimes with NGOs and sometimes for my own projects. And I’ve photographed many children across the country. But I have always avoided clicking street children.
It is very easy to click children on the streets and post it on Facebook or Instagram. Photographers often even pay them ₹10 or ₹20 to pose for photos. Personally, I do not support this. I am surprised and disgusted with such photographers. After all, when you click a street child, do you even think about their privacy or their future? No. Mostly, you do not even ask their names.
But when this assignment came along, I decided to take it up. Almost two years on, I went to click photos of street children in Kolkata. The idea was to capture the city through the experiences of children on the streets. On the positive side, it is challenging to find “street children” in my city. The situation has certainly changed compared to a few years ago, and it feels great to see changes through my lens.
On the downside though, there are no official statistics on the number of children in street situations, in the first place. It’s difficult to officially gauge whether the situation has improved then, or just better camouflaged. Their tendency to be floating characters too, gets in the way of making official estimates. And without official estimates, it is impossible to address this issue. Because the city is not just lacking empathy, but in situations, can be absolutely hostile towards children, especially girls.
With these photos, I have tried to capture the perspectives of children on the streets. Seen through their eyes, it’s a big, scary world- too large, full of hunger, hard labour, begging and danger. And one that needs changing, with more intervention to rehabilitate each and every one of them to safer living situations. Because until we reach every last child on our streets, our work remains incomplete.