Rajpura is an important industrial town in the booming northern state of Punjab. In one of the most fertile places on earth, the economy is predominantly centred on the agricultural sector - and today it is flourishing. In fact, the 2011 census revealed that the state's population had increased by 17% in the previous decade as people moved into the region to enjoy Punjab's wealth.
About two thirds of Punjab's population still live in rural areas and support a largely agrarian economy. Traditionally known as the “bread-basket of India”, Punjab is one of the planet's most bountiful regions. For much of the last decade, it has been recognised as the Indian state offering the best quality of life to its inhabitants. Rajpura itself is primarily an industrial town; home to several major producers - and many smaller ones as well.
Slums grow as people move in
The region's prosperity has led to an influx of migrants in recent decades. Housing stock has been unable to keep pace with the rapid rate of population growth and, consequently, slums have developed in towns such as Rajpura. Living conditions are very poor in these informal settlements. A lack of adequate sewerage and plumbing leaves residents - especially children - vulnerable to disease. A total absence of planning means that there are no municipal facilities or community centres where people can meet.
Many of the people who find themselves in Rajpura's slums come to the region for work but struggle to find employment due to a lack of skills. This impacts long-term job prospects, making it very hard for families to escape their life in the slums. Most subsist on menial labour, such as scavenging for saleable scraps, shoe-shining and begging.
Parents struggle to meet children's basic needs
Such a lifestyle makes it very difficult for parents to care for their children. Not only do they spend long hours working, they also raise very little money. This leaves them unable to provide for their children's basic needs or even be around when they are needed.
Often, children do not go to school because they are expected to earn money to support their families. Like their parents, many youngsters engage in menial and highly dangerous work, such as salvaging scraps from rubbish tips, basic cleaning work and, again, begging. As so often is the case, girls suffer the most. This is borne out by literacy rates among adults: while 82% of men in the area are literate, only 76% of women can read and write.
How is SOS Children helping families in Rajpura?
SOS Children began work in Rajpura during a time of great strife in Punjab. During the 1980s and 90s, violence came to the region as various groups fought for independence. Numerous atrocities led to thousands of refugees, while many children found themselves without parental care.
Caring for those with no one else
Our Children's Village is located on the outskirts of Rajpura. Here, we care for children who have lost their families, providing a caring and supportive environment as they grow up. With schools and hospitals in the vicinity, we ensure children enjoy a good education and decent healthcare.
SOS Children in the community
A good deal of our work takes place in the community. Financial circumstances often leave families in Rajpura at risk of collapse. Sometimes, parents simply cannot provide for children, and often struggle to get by themselves. In these cases, child abandonment is a real risk.
This is where we step in. SOS Children offers families a real chance of survival, tailoring the support we offer to individual needs. Where a family does not have the resources to get by, we provide medical care and the help they need to get children into school; from providing uniforms and equipment to paying tuition fees.
SOS Children believes that guiding families towards independence is the best way to alleviate the hardship that holds children back. So we help people start their own businesses; developing a sustainable way for parents to support their children.
And we don't stop there. We help them on the path to business success, offering guidance and support to help them make the best of new opportunities. At the same time, we provide the financial backing they need to find their feet.
SOS Children is vital to the survival of many Rajpura families. Our supporters give them the support they need to carry on; to offer a decent upbringing to children amid the squalor of the town's slums. As always, our child sponsors are there to give children who have no one else a new home, and a second chance in life.