Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are meeting one of the many Child beggars on the streets of Mumbai in Maharashtra, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
Child begging is an expression of emergency in the Indian society and this form of visible poverty is difficult for many travelers to bear and it triggers pity, uncertainty but also lack of understanding. One can ask oneself if you should give money to begging children and there can actually be numourous reasons why you shold not give child beggars money as with this photograph of child beggar on the street in Mumbai in India.
Child begging is an expression of emergency in the Indian society and this form of visible poverty is difficult for many travelers to bear and it triggers pity, uncertainty but also lack of understanding. One can ask oneself if you should give money to begging children and there can actually be numourous reasons why you shold not give child beggars money as with this photograph of child beggar on the street in Mumbai in India.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photographer
– Updated on June 25, 2024

Child beggars on the street

There can be a risk of the beggar buying glue or other addictive substances and not eating something, as one can imagine. Children who live on the street often have addiction problems, where they need alcohol to survive, even if that sounds paradoxical. A cold withdrawal on the street even in India can be life-threatening. Whether and how much the photographer is giving in the street situations with the child beggars, he is deciding each time for himself and what the begging child is doing with the money should be left to the beggar child.

Where are the child beggars found in India?

Child beggars in the classical sense are found in India almost without exception in the cities with a population of about 50,000 inhabitants in India and there are more street children in northern and central India than in southern part of the country. This has to do with the fact that there are not many big cities there.

Street children and children on the street
The situation of children in Indian cities in the context of the street is very different. On the one hand, one can speak of children on the street. They often come with their families from the countryside to one of the big cities and live in slums or on the outskirts of the cities. Lodgings serve them as shelters, pipes, the sewers. The children of these families live and work on the streets, with only about ten percent of them estimated to have a steady job, for instance, as a vendor at a crossroads, in a tea shop or other small business and there they often work more than 16 hours a day, are exploited and poorly paid and the other ninety percent engage in casual work and try to support their family.

On the other hand, there are the classic Street children in India who, unlike children on the street have no contact with their parents or other family members and they have run away or been abandoned and are now trying to get through typical street work, mainly collecting and selling garbage. But it is important to point out that both children on the street and street children live in totally inappropriate circumstances and the transition from living as a child on the street to being a street kid is fluid.

Number of child beggars in India
The Indian government is very cautious about the situation of children that are begging. There is an official estimate from over ten years ago, according to which there are 11 million street children and 420,000 live allegedly in the six largest cities in the country such as Mumbai and most of these children are supposed to be between 8 and 12 years old. According to Unicef and Human Rights Watch and other organizations, the number of Indian street children between the ages of 6 and 15 is around 18 to 20 million. In addition, there are estimates that emanate from 40 million street children. However, these are likely to be too high.

Child beggars in the big cities of India
On the other hand, the Poverty situation depends on the political conditions in the individual federal state. In the flagship state of Kerala, in southwestern India there are actually and virtually no street children, despite its large metropolises is still a land of villages whose numbers are estimated at over one million. Indian street children are almost without exception in the big cities. However, many of the children and or their families come from rural areas and thus from villages and life situations of most street children live in unsanitary, neglected and unappreciated circumstances. Many suffer from malnutrition and diseases such as 'Tuberculosis', 'Typhoid', 'Leprosy', 'Malaria' or 'AIDS'.

In addition, they quickly become dependent on drugs and alcohol and they suffer from exhaust fumes. It is noticeable that many suffer from skin diseases and fractures because these diseases usually remain untreated and unproven.

"Insecurity and discontinuity of life on the street cause mental illness in many children and the psychological trauma as a result of neglect, neglect, insecurity, vulnerability, exploitation, abuse, hunger and dependencies of all kinds are serious. And of course there can be specific questions in dealing with these children"

Dealing with begging children in India
Dealing with child beggars in India is ambivalent andt children are highly appreciated. But the image of children begging on the street, living in misery in the country's metropolises, has been part of everyday life for many decades and hardly seems to surprise anyone. Street children are there and are not really seen and perceived. Many encounter them with defiance and contempt. Some support them with small donations. Religious beliefs of 'Karma', 'Dharma' and 'Moksha' in Hinduism are likely to encourage a degree of indifference.

Many Hindus seem to feel no compassion and do not see themselves as energetic against street children and the existence of these children appears to them as the result of a bad 'Karma'. Children are therefore to blame themselves for suffering in such adverse circumstances. Anyone who feels pity and decides to seek a little support can strengthen or improve their own 'Karma' and for devout Hindus, the use of caste or 'Jalitza' should also play a role in dealing with street dwellers. Although religious traditions and imprints are crucial, it is difficult to make clear and universally valid statements in this area. There is no universal guideline of a recommendation on how much one should give the Child beggars.

"- What can I afford and what to reconcile with my conscience? Most of the time I give so much that it does not hurt me. The fact is, people on the street need help. I may therefore ask myself if I could not be more generous in view of all that for which I spend my money in a sensible and meaningless way. For a begging person, I could invest in humanity and solidarity", the Photographer says.

One can also ask the question if donations in kind no better than money, where a sandwich or a cup of coffee may be more useful from my personal point of view. But what if it is the tenth coffee and the 6th roll on that day, which the begging person receives as a gift and ends up in the garbage?

Are child beggars responsible for their own situation
Many people think that beggars are themselves responsible for their situation. Another widespread prejudice is that in India no one must be child beggars. The practice, however, is different, where municipalities are obliged to provide sleeping places and living space to prevent begging children, but these alone do not solve the problem because they are no more than sleeping essentials and often lack living space children are entitled to social benefits and countless people living on the street have no identity card or birth certificate and without them. Why is encounters with beggars unpleasant? Many people are afraid to experience such a fate once when looking at the child beggars in India. You feel insecure and helpless, taboo the topic and rather look away, than face reality, to deal with the unpleasant downside of our consumer and affluent society or even your own actions.

Many stories of these child beegars testify to how quickly a descent from society can take place by saying that no one is born begging and most of the time there are several blows of fate that come together, sometimes a moment is enough to set in motion an entire chain reaction such as over-indebtedness and domestic violence in child and Youth time in India.

Impression of beggars in India
One can also get the impression that there are more and more beggars in India. At every train in India, every corner of the house in India and every street market, in every square or every green space, that the photographer sees at least one person living on the street, making music, selling a street paper, collecting bottles and wanting money. In addition, there are many who as the photographer do not look at externally, that they live in a precarious situation. Due to extreme impoverishment in these countries such as India, people are on their way to find work and a living in India. But this chance of escaping from poverty often fails because local companies do not regularly employ them. Sometimes the photographer can also be feeling harassed by begging people as he is saying:

"- I do not have to scold or scold me. If I feel bothered by a begging person, I can show my disapproval by ending the conversation or saying no. If I have the feeling that the situation is threatening to slip away from me, I can turn to other people as I do for any other form of cross-border behavior in public space and ask for their help. Maybe I can see it this way: My money is a gift, a donation. Donations are voluntary and legally not tied to consideration. If I do not want to give any money, I can ask the beggar what he needs instead. Maybe a disposable razor, a pair of socks, a scarf or new shoes. Even a friendly look, a greeting or a few words can express an appreciation and be at least as valuable as a carelessly deposited coin in passing. I also have the opportunity to volunteer in an institution for the poor or homeless. If I do not want to give money directly to begging people, I can instead financially support associations, associations and institutions dedicated to homeless and poor people. These are often dependent on donations. In addition to homeless people the number of other needy people is increasing, as are older people who have fallen into old-age poverty", the Photographer says again.

Should I give money to child beggars?
It is in our nature as human beings to give to beggars in India because it makes us feel good when others feel good. However, realize that begging is a profession and when returns to begging become higher than labour more people start begging. When returns to begging become higher than schooling, there are more child beggars. We should act not on banning beggars or simply giving them money and we should do something to improve returns to schooling. For instance, start by offering a scholarship to a poor child for education and then work to improve teaching quality and this would be the best response to seeing a child beggar. While seeing beggars, often, people get filled with great sympathy and they help them with some money as per their strength.

"These Indian beggars are of various age groups including children, young men that are generally handicapped, old, women and so on. But the photographer sometimes feel dismal when he sees a child beggar given some money"

Is begging in India allowed at all?
When returns to begging become higher than schooling, there are more child beggars. We should act not on banning beggars or simply giving them money. While seeing beggars, often, people get filled with great sympathy. They help them with some money as per their strength and with aggressive child begging and begging is not forbidden in many cities and states in India but begging is criminalized in cities such as Mumbai and Delhi. If false living conditions such as blindness or a lost wallet are faked, this is considered fraud. Indians quite often cannot enforce their existing social security entitlements with local authorities so that they collect or beg bottles to ensure their survival and support their families in the same province or other state of India.

See this video about beggars in India made by Strong And Beyond.

The reason why we give
"- Do we even think from our deep heart as if why are we giving them money? Do we think that our obligation are satisfied by doing so? I don't think so. Actually, we are decimating his life. Instead, we must give him some of our time. Talk to him. Make him aware of the childhood enjoyment and benefits and encourage them to pursue those and we hould also listen to their grievances carefully and that would be a real help. If child labour is banned, then child beggary must also be spurned. I beseech, do talk and listen to them if possible. Otherwise, don't give them money", the Photographer says again.

"- Capturing poverty photos in India can be both emotionally draining and rewarding at the same time. Comparing the before and after photos can be a satisfying feeling, knowing that although the images of poverty remain, the lives of people have been improved and that's an accomplishment to be proud of. Photographers, naturally, have an immense power of making a change in the world. With our lens, we can document and capture the truth in order to bring awareness and aid to those in need. Taking poverty photos in India is a remarkable experience, one that can be extremely heartbreaking but ultimately rewarding. For every begging child, no one lives without reason on the street and they may be understandable to me or no and there are always reasons why people beg or live on the street", the Photographer says again.

Read also:  Delhi beggar girl

Delhi beggar girl

Read also:  Delhi beggar girl

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 a child beggar in Mumbai. 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.