Prerana Sanmaan Project

At dusk, they scurry to find shelter under bridges or at railway stations, and on the cemented pavements or outside closed stores. At dawn, they disappear into market places, busy streets, outside temples and churches as they take on the daily struggle of survival, each day. As they press their faces against our car windows at traffic signals or nudge us on crowded streets for money, we look away or wonder for a fleeting moment… Where do street children live? How do they survive each day? Who looks after them? And what will tomorrow look like if they never got off the street?

There are 18 million street children in India, the highest in the world. Each one comes with stories of abuse and deprivation, exploitation and emotional scars. While a lucky few find a new path, many continue their lives in abandoned corners of India’s streets.

Little Humans, in collaboration with Prerana Anti-Human Trafficking‘s Sanmaan project, brings you the stories of children who are either forced into, rescued from or are found begging. With the right intervention and support, they are beginning to dream of a life off the street. ‘Sanmaan’ aims to strengthen the responses of the existing systems for sustainable rehabilitation of such children, and build the capability of communities to ensure children don’t get inducted into begging. #LittleHumans #LittleHumansOfMumbaiStreets


Little Humans, in collaboration with Prerana, brings to you the stories of vulnerable children from the streets and communities of Mumbai who are either forced into, rescued from or found begging.

Fourteen-year-old Sanjana (name changed) attends the Telugu-medium Municipal schools near Sewri in the Mumbai suburbs. One of the top students in her class, she is known for her confidence amongst her peers. She lives along with her mother and younger sister in a small home. The police had rescued her from begging almost two years ago. Today, this Class VII student makes sure that she attends school and encourages children around her to do so too. The school staff admires her spirit, as she understands the importance of educating herself and the change it is bringing in her life.

“Did you go to school today?”

“No, I did not.”

“Why not?”

“The municipality has demolished all the houses and taken away our belongings. All we managed to save during the eviction were some utensils.”

“When did this happened?”

“Yesterday. The “municipality ki gaadi” demolished everything. All the roofs of the houses are gone. They took away my bag which had some of my school books. I don’t know what to do. This happens every six months. The municipality, without any warning, just comes and demolishes our homes. They take our things to be dumped somewhere. It’s difficult to get things back. I don’t know much about it. My mother does not tell me.”

“Why haven’t you gone to school today?”

“How can I go? The whole house has been demolished and we are left out in the open. Anyone can steal the utensils we are left with. Since I am the eldest, I have to take care of it, while my mother goes to work. There are chances that the municipality people might return and take other things too. So, I have to be here to keep an eye on everything. It gets difficult to concentrate on studies when such things are going on.”

“When will you be going to school?”

“Not for the next 15–20 days. May be by tomorrow, we would shift to another place where our relatives stay. We will get back once things are settled here, and when we feel that there is no threat of anybody returning and demolishing our home. We have to start saving to buy plastic sheets and staying with relatives will help us to do so.”


“For some time, since we will stay with relatives, we do not have to fully pay for food. It is contributed. It helps us to save at least 100 rupees every day. After some days, it is enough to buy plastic sheets.”

“What’s been on your mind since this incident?”

“I hate it! I hate it! I hate it! But things like this keep me motivated to study further. I want to be a police officer one day and stay in my own house where I don’t have to live with the fear of being thrown out every single day. I don’t want to stay in fear, that’s it.”


Little Humans, in collaboration with Prerana, brings to you the stories of vulnerable children from the streets and communities of Mumbai who are either forced into, rescued from or found begging.

Sujay’s (name changed) peers call him “humble and polite”. The 13-year-old boy, who loves to study, has been staying in a Children’s Home after he was rescued from beggary in June 2016. He used to stay along the roadside in Mumbai’s Grant Road with his father, who did not care much about him. Later, he took to begging along with women and children on the road. At the Children’s Home, he feels safe, he says.

“Hi, how are you today Sujay?”

“I am good Didi.”

“Did you go to school today?

“No! Today is Saturday. No school.”

“What have you been doing then?”

“I have been playing with my friends.”

“What were you playing?”


“No studies today?”

“Not much, no homework today. We have tuitions in the afternoon.”

“Sujay, do you like staying in a Children’s Home?”

“Yes. I do. You know Didi, this place is way better than where I lived earlier.

I used to stay on the road, with my father. My father hardly cared for me. It has been two years he has not come searching for me. I felt left out Didi. But here everyone appreciates my work. When I used to stay on the roads, I had to beg along with my friends every time we felt hungry. Here in the Home, I don’t have to ask for anything, be it food or education. When I was on the streets, every day was a struggle to survive. You have to be tough to survive on the streets. Here, I feel safe.


Little Humans, in collaboration with Prerana, brings to you the stories of vulnerable children from the streets and communities of Mumbai who are either forced into, rescued from or are found begging.

Close to a traffic signal at Dadar in Mumbai, on the dusty pavement, 13-year-old Chaaya (name changed) sits huddled, meticulously tying one flower after the other to weave a gajra (garland). There are days, when she has to skip her school to sell these gajras to contribute towards her family’s income to make ends meet.

 “Hi! How are you?”

“I am good.”

“Do you go to school?”

“Yes, I am in Class VI now.”

“Do you go every day?”

“No, sometimes. One or two days a week.”


“I have to work.”

“What work?”

“I make and sell gajras.”

“Who gets the flowers for the gajra?”

“Sometimes, my mother or I go to the market to buy flowers. We have to wake up early, get the material and start preparing gajra.”

“This is what you do every day?”


“When do you go to school then?”

“I have school in the morning. If my mother goes to the market and brings the material, I am able to go to school.”

“Your mother doesn’t go every day?”

“No, sometimes she sleeps till late, which is why I have to go.”

“What about your father?”

“He does not help. He is a daily wager and wastes all the money in drinking.”

“Do you like to study?”

“Not much, I don’t understand what is taught in the school. But I do want to study and complete at least Class X. My parents won’t let me study further.”

“Why so?”

“Girls in my community get married once they turn 18 years.”

“Do you want to marry?”

“I don’t have much of a choice in that. I have to get married.”

“Would you like to tell us about your day at work.”

“So, I get up early in the morning. My younger sister and I go to the market to fetch flowers and other materials for gajra. I come back and start making the garlands. I make about 100-200 of them per day. By afternoon, I go to the nearby railway station to sell them. I earn around 200-300 rupees, excluding the material expenses. There are times when we don’t have to sell. We get work from others to complete certain number of gajras and we get paid. The material is provided and I don’t have to sell, though the number of gajras are more. We have to make 1,000-2,000 garlands in two days. We get paid well, but it is a lot of work.”

“Who uses the money you earn?”

“I give it to my mother. We buy food from the money my mother, sister and I earn by selling gajras. My mother cooks good chicken. You should try it.”

“Do people ever give you food?”

“Yes, they do. People come and distribute food. Or sometimes leftovers. We don’t eat the leftover food.”

“Do you get bored of working?”

“Yes, I do. But I have to if I have to eat.”


Little Humans, in collaboration with Prerana, brings to you the stories of vulnerable children from the streets and communities of Mumbai who are either forced into, rescued from or are found begging.

Today an adult, Aarti (name changed) belongs to the Pardhi (a semi-nomadic now de-notified tribe, which was for over a century branded as a criminal tribe) community of Solapur, Maharashtra. Having gone through a forced marriage, young Aarti nurtures a dream — a dream to study further.  

“How long have you been married Aarti?”

“It has been two years. I don’t stay with my husband anymore.”


“He didn’t give me any attention. I worked for him and he cared least about my existence.”

 “How long have you been staying away from him?”

“It has been six months. I was married against my wishes. I wanted to complete my Class X and then take up a good job. But my mother and uncle beat me up and forcibly got me married off.”

 “What did your husband do?”

“He would make me work for the whole day and cared least about me. If he thought that I did not work as he wanted, he would mercilessly kick me or hit me. I would be in pain for hours. He used to beat me up because I could not bear a child even a year after our marriage. He used to humiliate me in front of everyone and my family. Others took my side, but my family kept quiet.

Now that I have left him, my family taunts me. They laugh at me. My mother survives on my earning, yet she says that I am a burden on her. I earn and live on my own, but still they slam me. My mother wants me to go back to my husband. But I don’t want to. Why should I? I want to complete my Class X. This is the reason why I have come to you Didi. I want to study and get out of here, and stand on my feet.

“Did you ever complain to police?”

“No. I haven’t and I don’t want to. I don’t want to cause trouble to anyone. All I know is that I don’t want to stay here anymore.”


Little Humans, in collaboration with Prerana, brings to you the stories of vulnerable children from the streets and communities of Mumbai who are either forced into, rescued from or are found begging.

Twelve-year-old Manoj (name changed) is a doting brother. He and his younger brother used to wander around together across the suburbs of Mumbai. The duo would beg for a living. It was during a follow-up meeting by the Prerana’s team that they discovered Manoj’s addiction to drugs. He used a part of the alms to support his addiction. Subsequently, he was sent to a rehabilitation center following the order by the Child Welfare Committee. Here is a part of the discussion by Prerana’s social workers as they interact with Manoj in one of the follow-up visits after the child was placed in the rehabilitation center.

“Hi Didi, how are you?”

“I am good Manoj. How about you?”

“I am good since the past few days. Initially, it was difficult (rehabilitation process). I felt weak. They made me stay in a place where they gave me medicines and food.”

“Do you feel okay now?”

“I feel good. I have been feeling strong since the past few days.”

“That’s good to know.”

“I was not okay initially, but I feel better now. I was never okay Didi when I took drugs. My younger brother had asked me to stop it so many times but I did not listen to him.”

“What had happened?”

“My younger brother and I would wander from place to place. I had friends who took drugs — the shoe polish. We used to inhale it. I used to feel dizzy after that. It started as fun, but took a heavy toll on me. My younger brother had warned me, but it was of no use. I continued taking it.”

“Do you want to return to your home?”

“No. Actually I am not sure Didi. I will stay till I am sure I am okay and then want to return.”


Little Humans, in collaboration with Prerana, brings to you the stories of vulnerable children from the streets and communities of Mumbai who are either forced into, rescued from or are found begging.

Sixteen-year-old Akash (name changed) dropped out of school after his father’s death. He was 12 then. While he studied in an “ashram-school” (tribal residential school run or supported by the State) in Solapur, the situation compelled his mother to ask him to beg and later do menial jobs to make ends meet. Prerana under its Sanmaan project is now trying to reintroduce education in the life of this child.

“Tai, Akash is spelt with one ‘A’ and not 2.”

“Sorry! How come you are back early from work today?”

“No, I did not go to work today.”

“Why did you not go to work? What happened?”

“Nothing!Just did not feel like going. Tai, did you get the information of NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) that you were to get?”

“Yes, I did! You have completed your standard VI right? So, we can now have you admitted in the next class. Tell me something, why did you drop out of the school?

“I did not want to continue. Our father died when I was 12. My mother had to make me and my step-brother discontinue our school so that we could work and earn for the family. In all, we are eight brothers and sisters. My mother could not take care of everyone herself. So, she removed us from the school.”

“What kind of work did you do?”

“For a year, I begged along with my younger sister. We both earned 200-300 rupees a day. I used to give the money to my mother. I never liked the work she had to ask me to do, but I had no choice. Then along with my mother I started selling things. I sold books and gajras in local trains and on the streets.


“Once I turned 15, I started doing menial labour. I worked at construction sites, Metro sites and even cleaned sewers. I hate it! I hate to clean the gutters. The stench makes me choke and puke, but you have to do any kind of work you get. I have to work and earn if I have to survive. The work — be it clearing sewers or construction work — is physically taxing, which is why I eat tobacco. It calms me down.”

“Do you know that taking tobacco is dangerous for your health?”

“Yes, I do know that it could kill me. But Tai, the kind of work I do, it hits you mentally. There are times when I am so frustrated that I physically fight with people around me for no apparent reason. I need tobacco so it helps me to get through the day.”

“Please note that we can take you to a rehabilitation centre to help you give up tobacco.”

“You mean treating?”

“Yes, you might need medical help to get rid of it.”

“I need to think about it.”

“Tell me something…. why do you want to study?”

“When you came to the community I saw that you wanted to make sure that the children go to school and study. No one has ever come to our community like that. I always wanted to study but did not know whom to approach for that. Which is why I have come to get the information about what’s to be done to complete my education.”

“Yes, but why?”

“Why not? You completed your studies, why can’t I? Why do I have to give any reason for completing my studies. Tai, what kind of future you saw when you completed your education?”

“I did my Masters in social work because I wanted to be a social worker. What do you want to be when you complete your education?”

“I don’t know! All I know is that I want to study and complete the 15th standard. All I know is I don’t want to work under the scorching sun, get drenched in the rain, work in the sewers to earn money, without caring for myself.”

Working in sewers is hazardous work. Children up to the age of 18 (below 14 are children and 14 to 18 are adolescents as per the 2015 amendments in the Child Labour Law) are not to engage in hazardous work as per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016


Little Humans, in collaboration with Prerana, brings to you the stories of vulnerable children from the streets and communities of Mumbai who are either forced into, rescued from or are found begging.

Every morning, Savita (name changed) hops on to the local trains on the Harbour Line in Mumbai to sell a sack of garbage bags. This 14-year-old girl has a family of five, and is the eldest of the three daughters. They live in a shed made of aluminum sheets by the side of a highway in Chembur, a suburb in Mumbai.

“You are home early today!”

“Yes, I completed my day’s work and returned early.”

“Where do you go for work?”

“I sell garbage bags in local trains; one packet for 20 rupees and three for 50.”

“How many bags do you buy every day?”

“We buy a sack full of the garbage packets. Each sack contains around 100 packets.

“How much do you buy those for?”

“Each packet? Nine rupees per packet. Mother buys the sack.”

“From where?”

“Somewhere in Mulund, I don’t know the place.”

“And so you sell the whole sack all by yourself?”

“No, my mother and I do.”

“How much do you earn?”

“Around 500 rupees per day.”

“How long do you work?”

“I leave by 9 am and return by 8 pm sometimes.”

“What do you do once you return home?”

“I cook, and eat the same food the next morning too.”

“Do you want to continue working this way?”

“(Shyly) I don’t have any choice, I have to eat and survive, for which I have to work. My family depends on the money I earn. I have to take care of my sisters. Nobody cares about us. I don’t like working. Women customers bargain and higgle-haggle even for 10 rupees. Men on the platforms ogle at me. But yet, I have no choice Didi. I have to work.”

“Do you complain to anyone about it?”

“No one. It is part of the work I do. I can’t even complain to police or they will ask for hafta (extort money) from me for selling the bags in the train. I can’t afford that. If I get arrested, I have to pay a 1,200-rupee fine to the police. The women police come and take away our things. Earlier, I used to sell clips, but I got caught once in six months and had to pay fine. Also, the revenue is not that good in selling clips. In selling bags, I don’t get caught easily and the profit is good.”

“How many family members do you have?”

“We are five people — two younger sisters, father, mother and me.”

“Does your father work?”

“He does, but he spends all his earnings either on gambling or drinking. He does not care about us. If we try to talk to him he beats us up… all of us.Also, he wanted a boy child, and we all are girls.”

“What about your education?”

“What education Didi? I tried going to school, but was ridiculed by my teacher. I was bullied by my classmates for not understanding a word in the class. There were times, due to tiredness, I would doze off in the school and the teacher would scold me in front of the whole class. It was unpleasant and humiliating.”

“Do you ever want to complete your education?”

“I am not sure Didi. All I want is to take care of my sisters. I want them to be educated. I want them to complete their education and have a stable job. I want them to be addressed as ‘madam’. In the next few years, I may get married, but I will still take care of my sisters.”


Little Humans, in collaboration with Prerana, brings to you the stories of vulnerable children from the streets and communities of Mumbai who are either forced into, rescued from or are found begging.

Saanya (name changed), a 10-year-old girl, was rescued from begging in Mumbai, back in May 2016. Today, she and her sister study in a Municipal school in Ghansoli, Navi Mumbai. She is regular at a school and is good at her studies. In conversation with Prerana’s social workers, she recalled the challenges she had faced while she lived shelterless along a roadside in Ghatkopar with both her sisters and parents. The family’s makeshift toilet meant four bamboo sticks on four corners tied together by tattered pieces of cloth and plastic.

“What safety related challenges did you face while staying alongside a street?”

“As you know, we don’t have water and toilet facilities. We have to take water from the nearby colonies. Often, the residents of those colonies humiliate us and shout at the children for fetching water from there. We don’t have our own toilet facility, neither is there any public toilet facility. So, we are forced to wake up early and go to a nearby colony, which is abandoned, to relieve ourselves. It is dangerous at night but it is also difficult during the day time as it is dimly lit there. We have to always take someone with us for our safety.”

Why do you feel unsafe?”

“It is all dark there. If we are alone anyone can do harm to us in any manner.”

“What do you mean by ‘anyone’?”

(She does not answer)

“What is the worst thing about staying on a footpath?”

“We are scared, especially at night. My parents sleep on either side keeping me and my sister in the middle. My mother has instructed me to scream aloud and raise an alarm if someone tries to touch me.”

“Have you ever spoken about it to anyone?”

“No one other than my family.”

“Do you know about the child helpline – 1098?”


“So, when someone touches you or tries to grab you or does anything that you don’t like, you can always talk to the police. You can also call 1098 and talk to the helpline persons.”

“How will that help?”

“They will protect you. They will try to get the person who troubles you punished.”


“Would you like to stay in a children’s home instead of living on the street?”

“No! Not a children’s home. I am happy with my family. I don’t want to be away from my family.”

“If you get to stay in some place other than the streets or children’s homes, what kind of place you would you want to be in?”

“A place where there is a tap and a toilet in the home, so that we don’t have to listen to anyone’s scolding; a place with walls and a roof, so that we could be protected from the rains, so we won’t have to run from place to place on a rainy day. A place with a cupboard, so that we can keep our belongings safely. Also, from where school is nearby, so that I don’t have to walk long distances.”