Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are meeting a Child performer near the Andheri Railway Station in Mumbai, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
Andheri, a bustling suburb in Mumbai, is home to a vibrant community of talented children performers, which has increased in recent years. These youngsters have taken the city by storm with their incredible skills in their effort of begging. From singing and dancing to acting and magic, these children are gaining recognition for their talent in the streets.
Andheri, a bustling suburb in Mumbai, is home to a vibrant community of talented children performers, which has increased in recent years. These youngsters have taken the city by storm with their incredible skills in their effort of begging. From singing and dancing to acting and magic, these children are gaining recognition for their talent in the streets.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photographer
– Updated on March 20, 2024

Andheri Railway St portraiture

The Andheri Railway Station, located in the bustling suburb of Andheri in Mumbai, is one of the busiest railway hubs in the city. With millions of commuters passing through it every day, it is not hard to miss the presence of a certain group of people – the beggars. These beggars can be found in various forms, right from the entrance of the station to the platforms and even inside the trains. They come in different ages, from young children to old men and women and they all have one thing in common – their desperate plea for money.

How many children are begging in India?

There are at least 300,000 child beggars on the streets of India, with some estimates of over half a million kids. Most of these children do not attend school.

One of the busiest railway hubs in Mumbai
While begging is a common sight in India, the situation at Andheri Railway Station is quite different and alarming. It is not just a single or a few beggars here and there, but a large number of them and they seem to be thriving. These beggars are not just limited to the railway station either, they can also be seen in the surrounding areas, such as bus stops and traffic signals. One of the main reasons for the beggar menace at Andheri Railway Station is the high footfall of commutersand the station serves as a major junction connecting the 'Western and Harbour lines' and also has a metro station, making it a popular transit point for both inter-city and intra-city travelers. This constant influx of people presents a golden opportunity for beggars to target and solicit money from unsuspecting commuters.

Various slums and low-income residential areas
Another contributing factor is the presence of various slums and low-income residential areas in the vicinity of the station. Many beggars are believed to reside in these slums and use the railway station as their prime spot for begging. Moreover, the station's close proximity to the International Airport also attracts a large number of international tourists who are often seen as easy targets for the beggars. The modus operandi of these beggars is quite similar – they approach people with a tale of woe or flash a disability or injury to evoke sympathy. They often follow a set routine, targeting the same commuters at the same time every day. Some beggars even go to the extent of using children, who are made to beg in rags to have a more significant impact on the passersby.

"While the presence of beggars at the railway station may seem like a minor inconvenience to some, it is a severe social issue that needs to be addressed urgently. These beggars, many of them being forced into the trade and controlled by syndicates, often lead a deplorable life, with no access to basic necessities like food, water and sanitation"

A severe social issue that needs to be addressed urgently
The local authorities and NGOs have been working towards finding a solution to this problem. The Railway Protection Force also known as 'RPF' regularly conducts drives to evict the beggars from the station premises, but they seem to reappear in no time and some NGOs have also set up soup kitchens and mobile clinics to provide basic facilities to these beggars and curb their dependence on begging. As responsible citizens, it is our duty to not encourage this vicious cycle of begging. Instead, we can help by reporting to the authorities or donating to verified NGOs that work towards rehabilitating these beggars and providing them with a means of livelihood. To conclude, while the sight of beggars at Andheri Railway Station may be disheartening and disturbing, it is crucial to understand the root cause and work towards finding a long-lasting solution. With joint efforts from the concerned authorities and the public, we can hope to see a positive change and make the journey through Andheri Railway Station a more pleasant and safe experience for all.

India is a country filled with vibrant colors and diverse cultures, but amidst this beauty, Kristian Bertel | Photography also learned, it is also home to a large number of street children. These children are seen roaming the streets, begging for a living, and performing on the streets to earn a few rupees. While the sight of these children might be a familiar one for many Indians, it speaks of a harsh reality that is often overlooked. Street children in India often come from impoverished backgrounds and are forced to leave their homes due to various reasons such as poverty, abuse, neglect or even the death of their parents.

Begging and performing on the streets
These children have to fend for themselves at a young age and sadly, begging and performing on the streets become their only means of survival. Performing on the streets as a form of beggary has become a common practice among Street children in India. These children can be seen dancing, singing or performing street plays in hopes of receiving some money from passersby. They often use their creativity and imagination to put up a show and some even learn traditional forms of art and music to attract more attention and earn more money. Performing on the streets is not an easy task for these children.

"These children face several challenges, including harsh weather conditions, inadequate clothes and shoes and sometimes even physical abuse from their handlers who force them to perform and beg. These children also have to worry about the constant threat of being picked up by the police and sent to juvenile homes, where they are often subjected to further abuse and neglect. Despite these challenges, street children in India continue to perform on the streets, hoping to earn enough money to support themselves and their families. For some, it is the only way to make a living, and they take pride in being able to support themselves and contribute to their family’s income"

These children are missing out on their childhood
However, the reality is that most of the money earned by these children goes to their handlers, who often exploit and manipulate them to earn more. These handlers take advantage of the children's vulnerability and use them to make a profit, leaving these children with little to no earnings at the end of the day. The issue of street children performing as beggars raises concerns about Child labour in India, child rights and the education system in India. These children are missing out on their childhood and are denied the basic right to education, which would have helped them break the cycle of poverty and have a better future. The government and various NGOs have taken steps to address the issue of street children and provide them with education, shelter and protection.

However, the problem persists and there is still a long way to go in ensuring that every child in India receives education and a chance at a better life. As responsible citizens, we must also play our part in addressing this issue.

Organization with a commitment to every child in India
Across the world millions of children are forced to survive alone on the streets. In India, every 5 minutes a child arrives alone at a railway station. Immediately, they face violence, exploitation, trafficking and abuse. These children make money any way they can, scavenge for scraps of food and sleep huddled together in groups for safety and their lives are typified by violence and often cut short.

Railway Children India are working to change this as a non-profit organisation with a vision to create a world where no child ever has to live on the streets and enable sustainable changes in the lives of children living on the streets. Their work is focused around the railway stations across India and we are transforming them into safe places for the vulnerable children that pass through them and they are currently working at seven railway stations across 5 states in India, where they race to reach these children as soon as possible. Whether they are on trains or have just arrived at the stations, their early intervention can keep them safe and prevent them from slipping in to street life. Then they work with the child to find the best possible long-term future for them, whether that means being reunited with family or settled in a child care institute.

They are committed to reaching children before they are lost for good and making sure each and every one of them can reach their full potential.

See this video from Andheri made by Hindustan Times.

"- Instead of giving money or encouraging street performances, we can support organizations that work towards providing education and rehabilitation for street children. We can also spread awareness about the issue and be more mindful of our actions and the impact they have on these vulnerable children. In conclusion, the sight of street children performing as beggars on the streets of India is a reminder of the harsh reality that many children in our country face. While it is heartwarming to see these children use their creativity and talent to earn a living, it is essential to address the root cause of the problem and provide them with the necessary support and opportunities. Every child deserves a chance at a better life and it is our responsibility to ensure that no child is left behind on the streets to beg and perform for survival", the Photographer says.

Read also:  Dharavi "The heart of Mumbai"

Read also:  Dharavi "The heart of Mumbai"

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of an Indian woman in Uttar Pradesh. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.