India has seen rapid economic growth and urbanisation in recent years, with the ongoing lack of job opportunities in rural areas and falling income from agriculture forcing people from these regions to seek out work and a better life in the cities. However, once in the city, many end up living in crowded slums earning a wage through informal and unregulated work that is often unable to meet their families’ needs.
Not all slums are recognised by the Indian government, which means that residents in these settlements are not entitled to basic and essential services such as running water, electricity or public transportation. Children often live alongside their families in a small single room, sheltering under tarpaulins, without access to running water or a toilet. Residents are forced to either pay to use community facilities which are rarely maintained or are left with no other choice but to go the toilet outside, sometimes far from home. This puts the community at risk of disease and women and girls at risk of harassment.
The high levels of poverty within urban slums means that parents are often unable to provide for their families, leaving them with very few options to survive. As a result, many children run away and children of parents who are unable to provide for their families are forced onto the streets in search of work, scavenging in rubbish dumps to find scraps to sell or begging on the streets. The lack of educational facilities, high levels of poverty and lack of knowledge and information on the education system within many slum districts means that children are also often unable to attend school and, as a result, have less chance of improving their situations and finding new opportunities. While they are out of school, children are at greater risk of abuse and being forced into child labour to help financially support their families.