“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx


Invisible Children Of Delhi


The existence of street children in Delhi is not something new. Historically, the streets of Delhi have been both the theatre and battleground for the children whom we call Street children. They have been talked about in the news, referred in literature and have led to the development of organizations to assist them like CRY, Salaam Balaak. It has been estimated through the study conducted by UNICEF that there are around 100000 children roaming on the streets of Delhi and the number is still increasing.  

Definition of Street Children

Henry Mayhew first used the term 'street children' in 1851 when he wrote 'London Labour and London Poor'. In earlier researches any child working or living on the streets was termed as street child. Later the street children were distinguished on the basis of the time they spend on the streets and different definitions were introduced. According to UNICEF they fall under two categories- On the street and Of the street. "Children of the street" are the homeless children who live and sleep on the streets in urban areas. They are on their own and do not have any parental supervision or care though some do live with other homeless adults. "Children on the street" earn a livelihood from street such as street urchins and beggars. They return home at night and have contact with their families.  

Case studies

Raj Kumar a ten-year-old boy shifted to the streets of Delhi with his family who originally belonged to Rajasthan due to his health conditions. They shifted to Delhi to earn money for his surgery. Not being able to rent a room they started to live with the other people on the streets in the tent under the flyover. Raj joined the kids in selling the stuff on the streets. As he did not have any documents the health and welfare programs did not reached him, as he was invisible to the system. Who reached out to him was the people who promised him a good and better life with more money he was earning and took him somewhere unknown where he was made to do embroidery work. Those people also introduced him to the drug. He got addicted to sniffing of the glue and chewing tobacco, which further worsen his condition. The owner did not find his work satisfactory so he was thrown out of there. After travelling in the train hiding from the ticket checker along with some more kids begging on the train he was somehow able to reach back to his parents. He again joined his friends in selling of the stuff but after few months he left everyone and rested in peace.  His parents being helpless returned back to their village.

Gopal a five-year-old boy has always been on road since the day he was born. He sells roses on the red light and earns twice the more money then any other member of his family. He was given glue once but the older street kids near him didn't allowed him to continue. He is the youngest of the all in that group and therefore all the others are protective of him. He wakes up early morning everyday so that he can sit on the footpath and watch the children get into their buses for school. He wishes to join school someday. The scheme started by the government have not reached him also as he is also invisible in the system. Therefore, so that he can go to school someday he saves money in a broken box hidden under the tiles of footpath on which they spend the maximum time.  

Drug Use and Street Children

Out of all the kids running around in the streets of Delhi around 70,000 are addicts to one or the other drugs according to the survey conducted by Women and Child Development Department in collaboration with National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre at AIIMS. Out of there 20,000 are addicted to tobacco, 9,450 to alcohol, 7,910 to inhalants, 5,600 to cannabis, 840 to heroin, 210 each to pharmaceutical opioids and sedatives each. Injecting any available drug is common in these kids and the number cannot be estimated. Drugs are introduced to these kids when they are introduced in the world of begging and slavery. Sedatives and inhalants are introduced to these kids at a very early age of two while alcohol and tobacco is introduced at the age of ten while heroin and cannabis at the age of thirteen to fourteen.

The little kids in the arms of those helpless ladies as they saw are not their real kids. They are the kids who are being rented to them for rupees two hundred or three hundred depending on the condition of the kid. The worst the condition of the kid the more the money will be asked for. These kids are given sedatives so that they remain unconscious or unresponsive so that they do not cry or shout during the time when they ask for alms.  

According to WHO reports kids forced to beg or work on the streets or in the illegal factories of crackers, candle and bangle factory or made to do embroidery use drugs to anaesthetize physical or emotional pain, or to replace the need for food.

Mafia and Children

According to the police statistics 44,000 children disappear each year. The true number of abducted children is believed to be much higher, estimation going up to one million a year but it is not recorded due to the reports not filed or the missing child being orphan making them all invisible in the system. These children are then sold of as cheap labor in illegal factories, establishments and homes. Send of to Gulf countries as camel jockeys or are forced to beg.  Sold to people in the process of illegal adoption. The worst these kids face is when they become a part of organ trading. Out of lakhs of kids seen in the streets only twenty percent of them are girls. As the girls abducted are seldom forced into marriage or exploited as sex slaves or forced into child porn industries. Boys are also forced into porn industries but mainly it is the girls.  

Mafia make sure that these kids are addicted to the street life and drugs so that even if set free in some rescue operation they are more likely to come back to streets only. These kids in the need of drugs and surviving on the streets ends up getting involved in the business of drug selling in illegal manner or any other criminal activity.  

Delhi Government, Police and NGOs on Mafia of Beggars

According to the state government of Delhi there is no mafia controlling the beggars of Delhi. These kids are by choice on the streets some along with their families. According to Bhisham Singh Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch), there is no begging mafia in Delhi as suggested by their findings. Investigation was conducted for sixty days with surveillance points at ten specific areas with large number of beggars. It was monitored round-the –clock and two hundred beggars were interviewed. And it was concluded that no mafia or organized racket was controlling them. There is an informal network which beggars become part of after having spent years on the streets. But still he had some doubts and say it cannot be certified that no mafia exists at all.  

According to Rakesh Senger who along with his team from Bachpan Bachao Andolan assisted the Delhi Police in its investigation after interviewing thousands of street children one can find clues that suggest forced begging does exist in the city. According to him organized begging groups do not operate in Delhi because of the result of legal and procedural technicalities as authorities rarely invoke the appropriate provisions related to force begging when they come across such cases, making it hard to identify organized rackets.  

This can be backed up with the two cases reported in 2007 and 2011 where Delhi Police busted a gang in South Delhi after they were found to be bringing children from different villages in Rajasthan on the pretext of jobs and forcing them to beg and a women was arrested after being accused of forcing the children to beg while pretending to run a homeless shelter respectively. In both the cases the accused were involved in the forced begging in very systematic manner but were not recorded as the case of organized begging but as the human trafficking and illegal adoption racket respectively.  


As the government and police are still deciding whether begging in Delhi is related to mafia or not, Mafia like a disease is spreading in the streets of Delhi snatching away the childhood and life of those unfortunate souls who have become invisible for the people who are lucky enough to save their loved ones from that life. Invisible to the government, police and people under the dark blanket of drugs these kids still continue their ghostly ambling in the streets. They being reduced to nobody in the place crowded by people and are faceless. An occasional passerby might take notice of them. Then forget them. And they are invisibilized anew.


1) A Profile Of Street Children. World Health Organization.

2) Behura,N.K. and Mohanty,R.P. (2005, January 1). Urbanisation, Street Children and their Problems. Discovery Publishing House.

3) India Annual Report, UNICEF, New Delhi, 1990.

4) One Way Street. World Health Organisation.

5) Rao,S. (2012, November 19). Once a Child Learn To Roam Street Freely, He Can Turn Beggar Or Thief By Habit.      

6) Sharma Priyanka. (2017,March 12). Increasing number of Delhi children take drugs with some as young as 12 using HEROIN despite living at home. Mail Online India. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-4307024/New-research-reveals-70-000-Delhi-children-drugs.html#ixzz56XLbIuiJon 8 February 2018.

7) Andrabi Jalees. (2009,January 18). Beggar mafia thrives on lost children. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thenational.ae/world/beggar-mafia-thrives-on-lost-children-1.547033 on 8 February 2018.  



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