Running a newspaper and doing serious journalism 24X7 for 365 days is no child’s play, but those behind Balaknama know just what it takes to tell effective stories to bring about change. They are not trained journalists, but it is their flare to write and report that has made them stars in their own right.
Run and edited by streetchildren, Balaknama has immense promise of one day becoming the most circulated paper. A group of youngsters are running the paper from a basement of a South Delhi home. The day for these young scribes starts with a meeting where the agenda of the days reportage is decided. Issues are chalked out, stories planned and tasks are assigned so that no one is overburdened.
Shambhu as a kid has that typical spark in his eye that any editor of India would have. Balaknama is run by street kids and it tells stories carefully chosen by the young, with guidance from elders.
Having started off as a cucumber seller, Shambhu’s biggest challenge is to decide which story will make it to the front page, and managing the egos of those whose stories don’t.
Balaknama, a monthly newspaper has a team of 60 reporters ranging from agegroup of 12 and 20. The scribes are based in Delhi and neighbouring states of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Most reporters have been recruited from learning centres run by NGOs. It is NGO Chetna which started Balaknama in 2003.
Each paper is priced at a token 2 rupees and over 8,000 copies, most of them in Hindi, are published every month. The paper makes no profit and is entirely NGO-funded.
Balaknama also looks at larger policy-level issues. The paper campaigned to get street kids in Delhi national identity cards called Aadhar, which give proof of residence and when available, date of birth.
Chetna director Sanjay Gupta tells reporters the idea behind the paper is to give a voice to street children.
There have been cases where mainstream news outlets picked up Balaknama’s report and it led to a huge outrage.
First imagined by CHETNA and Badhte Kadam, Balaknama is dubbed “the world’s most remarkable newspaper.”
In statistics in a study in 2011, the Census of India found that 23.8 million children under 18 years of age were involved in child labor.
India has the largest population of street children in the world. The country has an estimated 18 million children living or working on the streets, and Delhi alone accounts for 4,00,000 of them. They make a living by begging or rag picking. They even face verbal, physical and sexual abuse. Many are abandoned by their families.