Rituparna Goswami Pande
Ambling down the cobbled streets of Fancy market, I was drawn towards a tote bag that was on display in the window of Pick me, the popular showroom in the area. As I weighed the pros and cons of stepping into the shop my eyes fell upon a little child about two years of age lying nearby on the pavement. She appeared to be fast asleep and in a very precarious position as just half a feet away was an open drain on the pavement. She appeared to be abandoned and alone with flies and mosquitoes hovering around her. Where is her irresponsible mother? was the first thought that crossed my mind. Usually, such children are always accompanied by a sibling or a mother with a bowl laid down nearby to collect coins as passersby throw out to them.
But it was not a case with her as there was no bowl of coins beside her. Just as I stood there trying to locate her guardians, I was joined by another good Samaritan who was genuinely concerned about the abandoned little girl. Together we tried to look around for her relatives and none materialized. We were appalled by the indifference of the shop owners and even the police personnel who were right next to her manning the traffic. The guard of a nearby hotel simply shrugged off any questions thrown at him regarding the child’s condition. Soon many others gathered around to inquire about the commotion. A few other street urchins came over and refused to divulge any details about the child. Meanwhile, the good Samaritan who was a visitor to the city fished out his cell phone to contact an orphanage. I suggested that it would be better to contact an NGO who is involved in the rehabilitation of such children.
I was really surprised that despite our city boasting of so many nongovernment organizations working towards such issues none of them have been able to put a stop to child begging. Fancy Bazaar is a haven of child beggars. All of us must have experienced this someday or the other when we had felt a little hand tugging at our clothes and asking for money. Many times we have obliged them out of pity, sometimes brushed them off irritated with the constant badgering but have we ever thought of finding ways to help them raise their plights. Sadly begging has become a huge racket these days and as a
result, child beggars are on the rise. It has also come to light that often parents drug little infants so that they are always in deep sleep most of the time when they are displayed on the city streets as a means for begging. When these infants grow up they often find themselves in the arms of addictions like ganza and Dendrite. Kids of about eight to ten years of age are addicted to the dendrite. What future do they have? Who is responsible for their plight? The poor parents, the public who encourage begging every time they offer a tenner to the outstretched arms or the government who does not have a single policy for the betterment of such children?
Child labor and child begging are the two sides of the same coin so why ignore the other while we cry hoarse about the former. Children are often abducted, abused and inflicted wounds and maimed to force them into begging. The Indian Human National Rights Commission reports that 40,000 children are abducted in India every year. But shockingly child begging is not considered an issue by the authorities.
A simple ban by the government on child begging can usher in a great change in the lives of child beggars. If child beggars are apprehended and taken under police custody and if people promoting child begging becomes a criminal offense, this malady can be eradicated from our society. The people behind the begging racket would have no other option but stop using children for begging purposes if it becomes punishable under law. Instead, the government should provide crèche and day care facilities to beggars with children so that they are not forced to push their children into begging. Beggars have rights too, it is a government failure to be unable to put a stop in child begging an eyesore in our lives which we have failed to address. If the government has the capacity to drain funds in the name of redundant events like the Namami Brahmaputra Festival or spend crores of money in the beautification of the country it sure can pitch in a few lakhs to introduce Children Homes or crèches for beggar children, for they are our future too. Just because they are beggars or children of beggars do not make them any less. So why pretend they do not exist or that they belong to another planet.
Meanwhile, the good Samaritan had called up the NGO who mentioned that they had reported many such abandoned children. But when the case reaches the court and parents materialize to claim the babies they are forced to send them back with the parents who once again use the children in begging. They suggested we contact Childline as they are involved in the case of such children. While we talked to childline a girl of about ten years came forward to claim the sleeping child and unceremoniously picked the baby and took off into the crowd. No wonder she must have been informed by the other people involved in the whole exercise. The girl who claimed she was her sister also appeared a little disoriented or perhaps under the influence of some substance. I was worried about the safety of the little child as she hung from her elder sisters arms oblivious to the world around her.
What future does she have, poor soul? Does she have a caring mother to look after her, to feed her to caress her to sleep at night? Does she have a roof over her head at night? She is only two for God’s sake! How is she going to grow up in such a sorry state of affairs? Will she be maimed when she grows up? Maybe blinded or rendered physically handicapped just for the evil and vested interest of the cartel which pushed her into begging? The answers didn’t come.
But let us find the answers on our own instead of relying on a selfish government headed by whichever political party that always likes to wash off their hands off the problems prevalent in our society after a win in the election. Let us not allow children to beg, rather let us beg to differ and stop child begging for