Bal Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (BASS) is a children’s collective founded in the early 2000s and facilitated by YUVA among various communities across Mumbai where interventions are with children. The group is collectively owned by the member children and has transformed into a platform for self-expression for marginalized young urban leaders. BASS operates where children live in either informal settlements, on the street, or in rehabilitation and resettlement sites. Children’s participation in this collective helps them develop a stronger voice and the agency to fight for their rights and drive changemaking. Over the years, BASS has facilitated a number of campaigns in Lallubhai Compound, Mankhurd.
Here’s a look back at a set of seven reports prepared by the children of the BASS chapter in Lallubhai Compound in 2019, where they speak about the different issues facing them in their community. The video reports are in Marathi/Hindi and brief transcripts in English have been provided alongside the videos to provide the readers a quick idea of how the children are driving change.
BASS has continued its efforts at changemaking for and by children, and has actively worked on several issues raised in these reports. Along this continuing journey, the collective has achieved successes and scored several victories even as many more challenges remain. We look forward to continuing to share about their efforts.
I. CLAIMING PLAYGROUNDS
My name is Rupesh Sutar. I’m from BASS. Right now we are in Lallubhai Compound, Mankhurd. This is a resettlement colony, where people who used to live in various re-developed areas have been relocated to. There are a lot of people living here, so space is limited, especially for children. We’re going to speak with some children to understand their problems.
We don’t really get to play here. When we’re playing cricket, people take our bats and don’t let us play properly.
Do you feel safe in this environment?
No, there’s glass and other things thrown around here. All the drug users congregate around here as well and don’t let us play. It’s especially unsafe for girls, because the men here are drug users. If this ground becomes cleaner, it’ll be really good for us.
There’s a lot of garbage around here, nobody really takes care of it; people just look at it and walk by. It’s really a problem for the children. There’s also no formal site where the residents can throw waste or plastic, so people throw it here and don’t really care. The government really needs to step in to make it clean. The children bear the burden of this unsafe environment.
Do you think this ground can be used by children to play?
It’s not actually appropriate to be used like that. But since there’s no alternatives or infrastructure, people have to make do with this. We come once a week to play here, and while playing, we don’t know what sorts of things are on the field. When we start running, we fall or get injured; moreover we don’t have a government hospital here, and are forced to go to a private hospital. The timings of these hospitals are inconvenient as well. We should have a proper ground. Nowadays people are interested in cricket. We should have a formal ground with safety measures, or even a grass pitch, which lots of children hope to play on. I feel that the BMC or the government should take initiative to make a proper field.
This begs the question, if we don’t have proper facilities, where will we play?
II. WORKING WITH YOUTH AT RISK
Hi, I’m Diksha from BASS. I’m going to speak about at-risk youth in the area, those who have dropped out of school, who use drugs, or have various problems in the family. In BASS, we have two groups for at-risk youth, one for girls and one for boys. The boys’ group is Duniyadaari Group, where there are 16-17 year old boys who use drugs and eve-tease, and we do different types of training with them. The girls’ group is called ‘Haq Henna’, where we also do a variety of training modules. Let’s see what people have to say.
I live in Lallubhai Compound, Mankhurd, the area which people usually look upon unfavorably. I am a high school graduate. I passed HSC, and I’ve just been at home for the last 4-5 years. Nothing was happening at home, so I started taking tuitions, and a neighbor then told me about the mehndi (henna) classes that take place.
After joining, we learnt it isn’t only a mehndi class, there are many elements of social service and child development also integrated in it. Prakash (our facilitator from YUVA) told me that there’s a free computer course that is run by the BMC. So I joined a web designing course there, which I am very interested in, and which is going very well. After it gets over, we’ll have an exam and an interview, after which we may get jobs there.
When the class started, a few girls had problems while joining, because their families weren’t ready to send girls to this. It’s because the environment for girls here in Lallubhai Compound is unsafe. So some girls wouldn’t come and the number reduced quite a bit for some time. After that, Prakash and I visited the girls’ families and assured them of how productive the class would be for them, as well as the other things they’ll get to learn. Then more girls started coming.
Mostly, families don’t send girls. For some reason or the other, their education is stopped, and for girls like this, a platform is created to learn not only mehndi, but also other things beyond.
We had to convince the parents, many times, that they should send their daughters here, because one prevalent idea here is that girls should be married early, for which their education stops. So that mentality and those conceptions cannot simply be tackled by a mehndi course.
After we learnt mehndi, we put up a stall at Sahyadri Ground in Tilak Nagar. We really liked it, because we got so much confidence from it, and got such a huge opportunity from that first stall. After that, people really liked it, and we then went to TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences), where we put up a second stall, which also went really well and which we all enjoyed. A lot of girls came there to get their mehndi done from us.
It was from there where I restarted my education and seriously thought about further education. Before this, I didn’t even know that this was possible here, even though YUVA’s been here for some years. Through the mehndi class, we have done so much more than just henna, we learned about other things like gender equality, and even visited the YUVA Centre in Kharghar. We saw what work YUVA does, how they do it, and got to learn a lot about them. Using that experience, I now have a job at YUVA. I’m very happy that I get to be a part of such a big organization, and I want to be affiliated with them. My journey with YUVA so far has been amazing, and I hope I get to do something bigger with them in the future.
It’s been about 3 years since I started using drugs and 1.5 since I quit. In 2016 or 2017 I joined the boys’ group at BASS, through a survey that they conducted in Lallubhai Compound, where they informed us about what BASS is and what it can do for us. We started to do sessions with the Duniyadaari group, and we interacted with organizations that do work on drug rehabilitation. We understood the effects of drug abuse on our body and brain, and how it could affect our lives ahead. It feels good that now I can save more money, and my parents aren’t burdened anymore. My friends are also sticking with me. Before BASS, my friends used to call me to do drugs, but now when they call me I can tell them to stop.
YUVA and BASS want to create a platform where the youth feels comfortable talking about their issues, as well as encourage the youth to stand on their own two feet and support their independence. We also hope that these efforts spread beyond Lallubhai Compound. We want Mumbai to know that the youth can be changemakers. If the youth changes for the better, so will the nation’s future.
III. TOWARDS SAFE SPACES
Today we’re in Lallubhai Compound and over here there are issues like eve-teasing (cat calling), not utilizing childrens’ right to play, and many others. In different slum areas there are many issues, but today we’re going to talk about some problems seen pan-Mumbai in areas like these.
My name is Jyoti and I’ve been living here for many years. Here, from a very young age, a lot of boys get into drugs and frequently eve-tease. In fact, some girls aren’t even allowed to go to the field because of this. There’s a lot of girls in our area who are scared to come downstairs and play. I also had an experience once with 4 of my friends in Sathe Nagar; a group of boys were sitting there passing comments and were doing things like rating us and commenting on our skin color. I got very angry and talked to them; they got scared and went away. My friends and I were a little happier and we also left. I’m from BASS, and my confidence has risen because of that. I’ve experienced a lot and because of that I can fight as well.
Prem, what is your experience here in Lallubhai Compound with eve-teasing (cat calling)?
My name is Prem, I live in Lallubhai Compound and I’m a part of BASS. From what I’ve seen in the last 7 years, wherever you go in Lallubhai Compound, girls get eve-teased. Some of the girls in BASS also experienced this, and we had to take action. We registered a police complaint. The main places where this happens are all the fields or open spaces in Lallubhai Compound.
I think this happens because girls rarely come downstairs anyway. So when these boys see any girl, they begin eve-teasing (cate calling). I think that all girls should be allowed to play downstairs and make these places their own.
We’ve talked a lot with the children about eve-teasing (cat calling). Now, we’ll talk with a parent about the same.
I think there needs to be more safety for these girls. They should be allowed to go down, but the police should also keep a better watch. Parents can even put girls in karate classes for them to be in control of their safety.
Over here there are many issues with girls, children, and parents. Eve-teasing (cat calling) is probably the biggest in our compound. At BASS, we’re trying to solve this problem by transforming the spaces where children are, through different activities and discouraging drug abuse. We’re trying to reclaim these spaces so that girls have places to play and feel safe. Moreover, we’re doing self-defense sessions with young girls, so that they can become self-reliant.
IV. ENSURING COMMUNITY HEALTH
I’m Samreen Shah, speaking from Lallubhai Compound, a resettlement colony. There’s a lack of cleanliness here which creates health issues for the population here. People get dengue, malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis (TB), and a horde of other diseases. We’re going to speak in detail about tuberculosis, which is rife here due to poor cleanliness.
There are many TB patients here in Lallubhai Compound, can you speak a little about the same?
I want to say that the dirtiness here and the waste all around are mostly responsible for this. People should ensure that the waste from their houses should be disposed of properly, especially because a lot of kids play around here and it might cause health issues. Diseases like malaria spread very easily here, and the number of patients is rising slowly.
There’s a big TB problem in Lallubhai; you live opposite this waste ground and your business is here as well. Has this affected anyone in your family?
Not really, but I faced some problems with my face because of some disease I got from here. I had to do an operation for that. The stench comes in here and there’s a lot of dirtiness around. You either have to stop smelling it or light incense. My house is right here; where else should I go? I need money for a house elsewhere, and that I don’t have.
Even though there are so many TB patients around, there are barely any government hospitals. There’s a big impact on children who live in this filth. Would you like to say something about this?
Yes, even though there are so many affected, we don’t have any government hospitals close by. I would say about 70% of people here have TB. We should have a government hospital here. There aren’t many doctors at the closest one, and the public gets really anxious about this. This gutter here is completely open, and people use the public spaces for defecation. There’s so many towers here, they keep saying a hospital will come, but nothing’s happened so far.
There’s so much filth here, we tell the BMC to take care of it, but they are inconsistent—sometimes they come, sometimes they don’t. We’ve kept a garbage bin in case a garbage truck comes to collect it, but when nobody comes to do that, people just throw it all here. There is a lot of filth here, people say we’re making it worse, but when there’s no real place to dispose of it properly, what must we do?
My relatives have gotten TB. So I know how many problems it can cause. We had to take one relative to GT hospital every day. We went to representatives to ask for a hospital close by, but didn’t get any response.
There’s a very big problem with uncleanliness here; and both the government and the residents have responsibility for it. There isn’t a government hospital close by and people face a lot of problems because of this, they have to go far away to places like GTB Nagar, Rajawadi, and Govandi. People are asking for a government hospital here because of this. People also need to build their understanding of the filth around and we need to raise awareness about how detrimental it is.
V. ADDRESSING BULLYING
I’m Shimon Ramesh Patole from the BASS, and we just ran the campaign ‘Bully nahi Buddy baniye’. Today we’re going to talk about what happened in the campaign, how we did it, the people who participated, and their experiences.
We thought of this campaign because as children are growing up and going to school, there’s a lot of bullying which we don’t really talk about. We thought that if the children themselves take this issue ahead, we can understand best how to solve this problem.
Bullying happens here amongst the children when they’re by themselves, both verbal and physical. It happens a lot here in Lallubhai Compound, in schools, on the road, out in the open, everywhere.
The bullies think it’s fun, but they don’t really know the effects on the children they’re bullying. They tease them for being overweight, dark-skinned, or disabled. These children have to deal with the consequences.
There was one instance where a child complained to his mother about bullying. His mother got angry and shouted at his bullies. But when this happened, the pressure of the consequences fell on the child again. When this happens, some children can’t even focus on their education; and this shouldn’t happen—children and parents should think through these situations.
Children don’t even focus on their education. They don’t feel like going to school, because they get bullied there. They’re embarrassed even while going to school. While playing in the garden, on the seesaws, others bully them for being overweight, and then they don’t even feel like playing.
The bullies don’t understand that they’re taking these children’s happiness away!
We realized that when we came on-field and interacted with the children, our assumption that they wouldn’t know much about bullying was wrong. Their lived experiences made it clear that bullying was extremely prevalent here; despite societal misconceptions that bullying is a ‘Western concept’, simply because it isn’t addressed enough. When we talked to BASS, we realized bullying is present in all communities, we just don’t talk about it enough. The means may be different, but the concept is the same.
We need to support the children and urge them to stop bullying. It’s better to be friends, which will have a good effect on the hearts and minds of all the children here.
The campaign began as one of our class assessments, but we never thought it would go this far. Two of my friends who were a part of the campaign made a rap about bullying in 30 minutes, and performed it as well. A lot of people were watching.
For us, the two days were very short, but the effects were larger, and it was a good experience.
So we’ve spoken to people about how their experience in the campaign was, what they got to learn, and how it took place. Bullying happens a lot in schools, we need to understand how to stop it; how to start new activities for the children and to create bullying-free zones.
We’re exploring how to interact with children differently to curb this issue in schools and outside, firstly by raising mass awareness.
VI. ORGANIZING: OF CHILDREN, BY CHILDREN AND FOR CHILDREN
I’m Prem, and I’m Samreen. I’ve been in BASS for 4 years, which was founded for children to find different ways to solve our issues. It was started in 2002 by children. In Lallubhai Compound, there are 20 groups with 10 children each. This is an organization where the children run everything themselves; decide which issues to take up, and how to solve them. It’s been in Lallubhai Compound for the last 5 years. The BASS runs in Malad, Bandra, and Lallubhai; but our aim is to reach all the kids pan-Mumbai.
Before the BASS, we didn’t let the girls go out at all. But after they’ve joined the BASS, I let them go wherever they want to. In fact, I encourage it.
From each group, there are two members selected for the core group, who are then elected from across the city. Those elected take up pan-Mumbai issues, in different places such as Malad, Malvani, Lallubhai, and Dadar. The issues are those from children across the city.
We run different campaigns in the BASS, for example, this past independence day, we ran a campaign for safer settlements, by running outdoor and indoor activities and workshops through the CRC (child resource center).
There are many different issues plaguing urban youth, such as children living on the streets and those without homes. We did a campaign on this. We also raised awareness about child labour through a play.
We’ve run many different plays, using popular songs to raise awareness about different issues affecting the children of the community. People over here get to know about the problems we have, and are beginning to appreciate the BASS.
The structure of the BASS is such that each building has a group. Each group has 10 children, 2 of whom are leaders. Those two leaders are in the core group who work across the whole compound.
We also have a theater group, where we create and perform plays about different issues in our community. There’s a safe space in every building for children where they can come together, and we believe this is necessary for children to learn new things.
A Maharashtra Government Resolution 2014 dictated that there should be a CPC (child protection committee) in every ward of the state. That wasn’t fulfilled by the government. But thanks to YUVA and the BASS, we now have four CPCs.
The BASS has done and continues to do a lot of work here, during elections, it translates all our problems to the necessary representative.
Before BASS, the environment around us was such that the common people couldn’t respond to those in power. Now, it’s changed—we realized there’s no reason to be scared.
I joined BASS two years ago and had no knowledge about social issues at all. All this has changed now. I used to be shy and embarrassed, but I’ve changed so much since then.
Even in the house, there’s a lot of change coming from my siblings—they’re pro-active and speak up about wrongdoing. I’m proud that my friends are in BASS, and I can walk with my head held high.
VII. UNDERSTANDING ELECTIONS, FROM THE LENS OF CHILDREN
I’m Prem Vishal Tambe, and I’ve been in BASS for 4 years. Right now, the elections are coming up, and we’re going to find out what adults think of childrens’ issues in Lallubhai Compound.
What are the problems faced by children here in Lallubhai?
They don’t have a place to play or study. There aren’t any facilities to play games. Even in school, though the facilities exist in some capacity, it isn’t like it used to be when we were children. A lot of politicians have come and gone, but nobody has fulfilled this.
There are dangerous streets in the compound, used by alcoholics and for drug abuse. This is happening in front of the police and the corporators, but they just let it slide. If they become more vigilant and caring, this behaviour will stop.
There isn’t a steady water supply in the children’s garden. The plants dry up quickly, and nobody really maintains it. They should have one watchman present. It was made for the children, but now is used by people to drink alcohol and for addiction, which ruins it for the children.
Nowadays, there are many problems facing the youth. Some children don’t get an education; roam around on the road and fight with each other.
Girls especially feel scared staying here.
A large problem here is eve-teasing (cat calling), as well as bullying or beating up of boys. At the same time, children don’t really have a ground or field here to play. The ones we do have are fields only in name. But if you go there and watch, boys will be getting beaten, and you won’t see any girls.
We have to stay over here, we don’t have the means to go anywhere else.
Children aren’t safe at all here, especially the girls. Boys here, if they do have a future plan or a goal, they tend to forget it over time or it gets corrupted due to drugs and things like that.
What are some of the other problems here?
There’s a problem with sanitation, with a water source, and male delinquency; in part it is also unsafe outside due to poor electricity. There’s big problems with drainage and health therefore. There’s no cleanliness.
According to me, a big problem is unemployment because of our education. Even after we have studied, we don’t get a job because there aren’t any means to get one. The amount of jobs available has reduced significantly.
People need reliable electricity and things like taps for water supply. Their children need to be educated at a consistent rate, and girls especially need this support. If women are the only ones earning for the family, others should step up and help them. These are the measures we need to take for women in the community. Even if mothers feel their children should be educated, they often can’t give them the necessary time because they’re so busy trying to earn.
During the election what happens is for four days, there is cleanliness. But after that, nobody comes back to the compound.
They say a lot during elections, about what plans they have and how they’re going to change things around here. But nobody fulfills that. For example, they recently did make new roads around here, but without considering the hassle to us that it caused and the many disadvantages of their inconsistency.
I think that all the responsibility is on the government. Nothing here is up to us.
What we’re going to ask for this election is facilities that we are in dire need of. We also need all the necessary measures for safety—if they make a field, it needs a security guard, or the creation of some sort of system that increases our safety.
Firstly, we don’t have a CPC (child protection committee) here yet. We need a CRC (child resource center), we do have one run by YUVA but none run by the government. With this, the children here will get a platform to come together and learn. And if nothing else, I would ask politicians to not make these large and usually false claims about ‘building roads’ or ‘giving electricity’ or anything like that. Small things that are actually feasible, which would help local children, is necessary, because these children will go on to be the future of this place. They need to integrate children more and get our participation.