The fifth estate: Street kids turn editors
New Delhi: At a time when journalism is courting sensationalism and sleaze, an unassuming four-page tabloid is doing its bit by writing about the trials and tribulations of Delhi`s child labourers. And the newspaper staff is particularly qualified to write about the subject - they form a part of this nameless, faceless multitude.
Called Balaknama, this Hindi quarterly is written and edited by homeless children from Badhte Kadam, a group of street and working children. First published in July 2003, this tabloid has come a long way with the help of Chetna, a voluntary organisation working for street kids.
"The plight of street and working children was never shown on TV channels and in newspapers. We decided to launch our tabloid to make these children aware of their rights and raise their issues. After a lot of brainstorming, we came up with the name Balaknama for our tabloid," 18-year-old Vijay, who is national secretary of Badhte Kadam, told reporters.
Vijay, who worked in a CD case manufacturing factory in Delhi, has been involved with the tabloid since 2006.
The paper publishes stories about the struggles and achievements of street kids in the capital. There are around 500,000 child labourers in the capital, many of whom live on the streets, say activists.
Vijay and five of his friends from Badhte Kadam don a variety of roles to keep the paper running - from writing stories to speaking to their counterparts all over Delhi about their life stories.
"This is our independent newspaper. We are the ones who decide the content of each edition. Our members from across Delhi meet at one place and discuss the topics to be published in the edition," said Shanno, 17, who works as a maid in Seemapuri.
Formed in 2002 in Delhi with 35 children, Badhte Kadam now has 10,000 members also spread across Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
"Whether it is police or the common man, everyone looks at us with disgust. We are mistreated by everyone in society. To create our own identity, we formed this group and a year later, we launched Balaknama to make our voices heard in society," says Vijay.
The paper has a circulation of around 3,500, mainly among NGOs in Delhi, and is priced at Re.1
"This tabloid is absolutely free for common people. We charge NGOs who are its subscribers. The response is not that bad," said Sanjay Gupta, director of Chetna.
"We are also thinking of getting it registered so that we can get subsidy and reach out to a large number of people and highlight the issue of exploitation and grave conditions in which these children live," Gupta told reporters.