ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Insecurities of 'Roaming Working Children'

Case Study of Kolkata

An exploratory study of children who live on the street without any contact with their families or those who are "roaming working children" looks at the relationships that these children share with the people around them and the insecurities in these relationships. The children develop "friendships" with complete strangers which infl uence their lifestyles and decision-making processes. Interestingly, they are more comfortable seeking the protection of drug dealers and family members who live on the street than of the police and NGO workers.

Numerous children live on the streets in a highly vulnerable condition (UNICEF 2002 cited in Consortium for Street Children 2009; Behera 2007; Dabir and Athale 2011; D’Souza 2012). Among them, several children live on the streets without any family support, i e, survive completely on their own. They lead an insecure life where they are deprived of shelter, care, love, protection, education, health facilities, etc. This study focuses on the children who live on the streets without family support or even contact. These children are referred to as “roaming working children” in this study. They roam from place to place according to convenience and work in the informal sector regardless of whether the work is legal or not, consume all their earnings much of it on narcotic substances and establish mostly temporary relationships (Paul 2012).

This article explores the role of relationships in the lives of 18 roaming working children in creating and addressing their insecurities through in-depth case studies and one focus group discussion. The study was located in and around Sealdah railway station where many such children live, not only because the station represents a transit point for them but also because of the entire range of economic, cultural, social and leisure activities available in this area. The street is their home as well as their area of work. Their relationships are with people who are complete strangers from different societies, cultures, religions and economic backgrounds. The relationships that exist between the roaming working children and those living on the streets with their respective families, the adults living on the streets without having any family contact right from their childhood, is looked upon as “friendship” by the roaming working children. They also relate to the police, drug dealers and non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers. These after relationships are not “friendships”. Instead, they use terms that denote negotiation like ‘bojhapora’ (deal), ‘maniye neoya’ (adjustment), ‘shojyo kora’ (tolerate), etc, while describing them.

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