For over a year now, 10-year-old Sandeep Kumar has been selling toys and goodies inside the Delhi Metro. While this might seem like a harmless act by a boy who needs money, it could well snowball into something the authorities might find hard to control.
It is highly possible that someone might employ him (if that hasn't already happened), along with some other to sell trinkets inside Metro trains.
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), meanwhile, said such acts are punishable under law.
"Such acts are punishable under the Delhi Metro Operations and Maintenance Act. Stringent action is taken as per the clauses in place if any such incident is reported," a Delhi Metro spokesperson said in a statement.
Whenever Sandeep is short of money, he packs his plastic fidget spinners and spinning tops inside a black polythene bag, boards a Metro train and gets down to business.
On many days, he hops on the train without a token. His excuse? Not enough money. "When I have sufficient money to buy a token, I buy one. Otherwise, I enter the station without one," he said.
He says he is aware that hawking inside a train or at a station without appropriate documents and permission is illegal, but he has to do it to survive through the week.
"In the market, no one is willing to buy these things from me and, anyway, I earn more in the Metro," he explained.
"Unlike everyone, I am working hard to earn money, every one is just begging on the roads," he added.
When asked how much he earns in a day, he said: "I buy the toys from Sadar Bazar at a lower price and sell them at Rs 20 or Rs 30. So, in a day, I earn approximately Rs 200... sometimes more."
Sandeep lives alone in a small room in west Delhi's Raghubir Nagar. "My father works as a labourer in Bengaluru. My mother and little brother are living in the village. That is why I have to earn some money to buy food," he said.
He generally boards the Metro from Rajouri Garden and can be spotted selling either on the Blue line (Dwarka Sector 21-Noida City Centre) or the Pink Line (Majilis Park-Lajpat Nagar) of the Delhi Metro.
To avoid being caught by the CCTV cameras or the authorities, Sandeep is always extra careful and frequently changes trains.
He has no fixed time or day to hop on to the train but when he does, he opts for peak office hours -- mostly evenings, between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. -- and gets in the women's coach.
This, he says, is the most convenient for him as there is a lesser crowd as compared to the rest of the coaches and "women, especially those who carry children with them, usually buy toys from me".
While many women give him whatever money he quotes for the toys out of sympathy, some feel that this should not happen inside the Metro.
"Metro is one of the best things which happened to Delhi and it should remain that way. I have seen him once going from one seat to another, trying to sell some fidget spinners. While I empathise with the kid, I feel that the Metro authorities should be more careful," Aishwarya Bal, a 27-year-old Human Resource specialist, said.
Another passenger, Swati Dubey, who travels from Janakpuri West to Mandi House daily, said: "I have seen him two times. I don't think it's right because this is not a local train. How can the Delhi Metro be so ignorant that they are allowing small kids to sell things in the ladies coach?"