Nizamuddin railway station in the Indian capital is a maelstrom 24 hours a day. Vast crowds throng the platforms. In the evening, as the crowds thin, poor children find a patch of space on the platforms to sleep after a day spent fighting hunger. Of late, these street children can be seen accompanied by foreigners getting a glimpse into their lives in the latest version of slum tourism. Inspired by the walking tours of Brazil's infamous favela shantytowns and the bus tours of Soweto in South Africa, visitors to New Delhi can get a two-hour dose of reality by touring the railway station to see children scavenge for rubbish, sniff glue, and keep one step ahead of gangs and police. The tours are organised by the Salaam Baalak Trust, a charity that works with street children. The money made from the tickets goes towards rehabilitating them. Asked if he is encouraging voyeurism by rich foreigners or allowing vulnerable children to be treated like animals in a zoo, tour organiser Sourabh Kapoor bristles. 'If visitors to our country want to look beyond swish hotels and nice restaurants to see a bit of real life, I welcome that. It shows a real curiosity about real Indians,' said Mr Kapoor. At the station, he explains how the children escaped poverty, abusive stepmothers and alcoholic fathers in villages to start a new life in the capital. Once at the station, they fall under a gang leader who spots them as they step off the train. He offers help with food and lodging, and their initiation into railway life begins. Later, they are taught how to pick pockets or make money by scavenging. On a tour with Australian and Russian tourists, I find the encounter disturbing. The children, after being affectionately treated by the visitors, will continue their hopeless lives. The visitors will return to cool, comfortable homes. What is the point of the interaction if not to make the visitors feel fortunate that they are not in the children's shoes? But Australian backpacker Arthur Rivers doesn't see it this way. 'I'm not being patronising. I meet poor Indians elsewhere too,' he said. 'The only difference is that this is organised. What's the difference?' Some people on the tour are Indians. 'I feel that Indians tend to walk past these children all the time without even noticing them. I wanted to find out more about their lives,' said Neha Atwal, a college student from Bangalore. The only concession to the children's dignity is that they cannot be photographed. They are friendly with their visitors - some speak broken English. Then, as the tourists say goodbye, the boys walk away giggling and are soon lost, once more, in the maelstrom.