As the sun rises in the morning it brings new hopes as it waits for the triumph of the human beings who work really hard in this materialistic world surrounded by all qualms and negativity. The people who tries to slowly bid the darkness in their life with the bright ray of positivity every day with a hope to life a live free of misery and suppression. But is this true for all the human being? Do all of the citizens have new hopes for the next coming day? So, the answer to these questions are so heart wrenching to shook us all because the poor section of the country who do not even have an idea of engulfing their meal when they will starve. The children on the streets have lost all the hopes of even seeing a dream for their self as they have accepted the fact of being poor and helpless. Child beggary is no more a small issue, it is a societal trouble now, as millions of children are involved in this worrisome situation. Everyday we see a number of children begging on the roads and we just turn our backs on them by saying, "What can we do?" Is this how this evil will ever be eradicated from our nation. Obviously no. We need to come together to beat with this demon which is gradually eating the roots of the nation.
Usually like my everyday routine, I was heading back to my home in the evening. The redness of the sky felt so calm until I notice few child beggars sitting in a group counting coins under the foot-over bridge of Polytechnic crossing in the city of Nawabs. They all were counting in a hurry as if someone is going to snatch these away from them. I kept noticing them and after few minutes a woman comes and took all the money from those child beggars. In a while a 3 year old girl comes with his folded hands started to beg me for some money in the most saddest tone she could manage to ask for. When denied she clinged to my feet. When I asked her name, she replied Arti (changed name), when I tried to enquire more about her she ignored and walked away in the crowd.
The state has strict laws against child begging, but in spite of the law, it is being violated.
The team of ‘News Times Post’ investigated this matter for continuously two long months and during the investigation, we found out that the situation of child beggary is so awful that if strict action are not been taken at this moment then the future of our country especially of these million children are going to be in dark forever. The frightening outcome has shook all of us. We have found that these practices are not as simple as we see them on traffic lights with sympathy, there are organised groups who are running these pitiful business for making money.
Innocent kids are been trapped in this nexus and they’re being exploited by the mafias. Child beggars from the age group of 4-6 years are seen begging at every crowded place, whether it is near a shopping mall, station, crossings or a police station but the authority and answerable respective department ignore all this under their watch.
On January 19, 2018, three-year-old Rehan (changed names, year, location and family) was following his Uncle, accidentally he left the hold of his uncle’s hand. His uncle thought that he might’ve gone to his home, but after some time the family comes to know that he hasn’t reached his home. The family and neighbourhood start finding Rehan, they lodge an FIR in the police station, but even after that, there is no location of the whereabouts of Rehan. After three days when Rehan’s mother informs her husband Waseem about Rehan, he quits his job and start searching Rehan. They didn’t leave any street, crowded place, traffic signal where they have not quest for their three year old son (as they told us). One day, they come across a beggar aged around 14-15 years who told them that he has seen Rehan at Charbagh Railway Station begging and he was with a middle-aged beggar woman. Waseem and his wife was traumatized after listening this. The parents have asked for assistance from the police, but police didn’t help them so they decided that they will find their son on their own. They managed to find the address of the woman who had kidnapped Rehan, her name was Shyama Devi, but when they reached at that location, there was no sign of Rehan or Shyama Devi. Shyama’s husband Ram Ratan was at the location and he accepted that Rehan is with her and she's going to Mokama Ghat, Bihar. Waseem and his friends take Ram Ratan with them and reached Mokama Ghat, Patna on the same day, but the scene was startling for all of them. Waseem told us that there were slums around them and children were sold at these slums for a mere price of Rs. 5,000 and the mafias used those children for begging and illegal activities. After 18 days of search, they found their son and another kid of Lucknow who was kidnapped by Shyama Devi. They freed their son and another child without any police assistance.
Kidnapping the children in the capital and using them for begging, smuggling and child labour has become a new business for the mafias and they operate from everywhere, whether it is a slum or residential colony. All the organizations and units of police established for the protection of children are unable to play an active role.
After examining various reports from police stations, order of courts, reportage of CWC, News Times Post got to know about the existence of nexus related to child begging. On 8 August, 2018 High Court asks CWC that despite having laws against child begging, why child beggars are still active? The next morning, a team of Childline (Lucknow), District Child Protection Unit (DSPU), Bachpan Bachao Andolan, Special Juvenile Police Unit, Interns of Childline rescued 15 child beggars along with two women (Maim and Razia, women responsible for forcing the children for begging) from most crowded places on the order of CWC. Sources close to CWC and Bachpan Bachao Andolan told us that when we counseled those 15 children, they were hesitant to speak, some of them were so frightened that they couldn’t tell about their native place. An intern of Childline told us that it was quite evident that these children didn’t belong to that woman. Another thing which was suspicious that one of the women introduced her as Razia and told that his husband's name is Alam (both are Muslim names), but when we asked the names of their children, all of the names were Hindu names. Interns told us that it was quite clear that both women were outrageously liars, one of them couldn’t even tell her husband’s name and contact number. (All the documents related to this story are with Newstimes Post)
Sudha Rani, member of CWC told us that the business of child begging is organized. She further told us that the woman rescued by CWC taught the children about the techniques to beg, how to play victim card while begging. The children were abused by the elders, boys were dressed as girl and there was even a school where they’re trained to beg as barter for education.
Our investigation has revealed that the Social Welfare Association, District Probation Officer and CWC doesn’t have any statistics about the child beggars in Lucknow. Child begging is a violation of Article 21-A of the Constitution i.e., Right to Education as they aren’t getting formal education which is a risk for their future. Thousands of child beggars are living on the streets with no proper place to live and they’re forced to live a nomadic life, people responsible for their conditions are enjoying a luxurious life.
A source of CWC said that it is a matter of concern that no agency has the data of child beggars, but the labour department is equally responsible for this fault as child begging is a form of child labour and Labour Department detaches itself from this issue.
A senior employee of ‘Rajkiya Bal Grah’ (Mohan Road, Lucknow) talked to us on the condition that his name mustn’t reveal. He said that if you get the statistics of child beggars of the city, then where would they go as there is not enough space to provide shelter to them. He told us that there are various schemes for these beggars launched by the government. There is a scheme which is for providing education to these beggars, but all the concerned officials have turned a blind eye towards it. The numbers of child beggars in the state are in lakhs, but the shelter homes are not equipped to hold them. If there is room for 100 people in a shelter home and because of some conditions, the number rises up to 200, then it becomes a tough task to manage the crowd.
Integrated Child Protection Scheme and many more schemes are being operated under the Department of Women and Child Development. These schemes are for those children who are surviving in unfavorable conditions and are the victims of child labour, but on the ground, those schemes haven’t been implemented accordingly.
Dr. Visesh Gupta, President of Uttar Pradesh Child Rights Protection Commission says that it is the responsibility of the family, Commission and many NGOs are active which are actively participating for the welfare of child beggars. Government is funding those NGOs to provide education to those beggars, but few of them are working on the ground for better results. There is a lack of coordination between the special police units.
Sharad Mishra, Research Scholar, Shakuntala University said that despite having strict laws of child begging in the state, it is being violated. Sharad has helped around 74 child beggars to come out of this nexus, counseled them, helped them to provide education and advice them to not beg in the future. Sharad says that if we want to remove this social evil, we must be aware and should participate actively. We should rehabilitate them and teach them about the importance of education and social infrastructure otherwise these numbers will keep on rising and without the assistance of police, uprooting this social evil isn’t possible.