Don’t be fooled by India’s economic boom-for a vast swathe of the population, the situation has not improved in generations. Hundreds of millions are trapped by caste and gender indiscrimination, and by the cycle of: poverty->child labour->no education->poverty. These people endure some of the worst conditions experienced anywhere in the world. For instance, an Indian child is more likely to be malnourished, have inadequate sanitation, not attend school, remain illiterate, and marry underage, than is a child from Africa or any other global region.

Perhaps the most disadvantaged group in India are the millions of street children who live or work on the street. Street children have fallen through society’s cracks- there are a few ladders for them to climb back up. They live as their parents did and as their own children are likely to do.

Children live and work on the street because their parents are poor, or they are orphans, or they have run away from home, often to escape abuse. They are invariably malnourished, receive scant education or medical treatment, and are involved in child labour from an early age. Child prostitution and sexual abuse are also major problems, as is addiction to drugs. These children live in a different world to the emerging middle class. Taken as a separate nation, they represent one of the neediest people on the planet.

In Kolkata, the problems of street children are chronic.