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No long-term rehabilitation for street children

March 2, 2007

Remember this little fellow?

This is the little kid at the Teen Hat Naka (Mulund) traffic signal. No more than a beggar child really, although he did carry a cloth and made half hearted attempts to wipe our already squeaky clean car. Well, I may not find him here anymore because the Mumbai police have finally got into action to stop parents from forcing their children to beg. Not just parents, it is well known that beggar mafia dons exploit the destitute, force beggars who work in their ‘area’ to hand over their earnings, and even maim them to maximise profit. And considering that the three lakh beggars in Mumbai earn about Rs 180 crore in a year, I guess its a lucrative business. Its a huge industry and leads to exploitation of children as children seem to arouse the sympathies of those who give alms.

Well, as I said, several drives have been conducted in Mumbai to rescue these children. While some of them are beggars, some are simply working children. The drive has continued over several days. In fact the Preventive and Enforcement cells of the Mumbai Crime Branch have been working overtime to catch these children and put them into remand homes. And not just these teams – even police stations have been asked to round up begging children from all across Mumbai as it has been found that their parents are all able bodied and they put their children out there to beg because the kids earn more than they themselves earn by begging. Many of these parents are exploited by beggar mafias.

But the question remains: Where are these children to go? A report in today’s TOI said:

The issue of long term rehabilitation of these children now looms large…the city’s childrens’ homes are running out of space. A majority of these child beggars so far lived with their families and now the parents too face up to three years on jail under the Juvenile Justice Act. The children could be in the institution for years…

This is the stuff of horror. Children being separated from parents…children being exploited in remand homes. And what is even more tragic is that the police have discovered that most of the children are from outside Maharashtra and have never been sent to school by their parents. Well, this is not surprising as beggars invariably are at the bottom of the social structure. Literacy in India is approximately at 60 per cent (40-45 in some states) and it is logical that at least ten per cent of the population do not send their children at all. Not even for a few years. So, how is the state now going to rehabilitate these ten and twelve year olds? Will they be able to join the school system? Well, the government is admitting that it is in a big quandry. What is most likely to happen is that eventually this brouhaha about child beggars will die down and these children will be allowed to go – with stern warnings. Ofcourse, this is exactly what the Mumbai police has been doing all these years and it hasn’t worked. After a few days the beggars are back on the street. So far no organised programme has been put in place to help these children or their parents.

Related Reading: Street kids do not go to school
Government starts creches for abandoned girl babies
Ministers dip into slum development fund
Slum Rehab project in down the drain
Mumbai wants to rid itself of slums by 2015
Corrupt officials allow slums on new roads and under flyovers
Indians want more money to be spent on health and education
We have Forbes billionnaires but to rise we need to eradicate corruption

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2007 5:17 pm

    We see instances like the one you told everyday at Red lights in Delhi.A Britisher was with me in the car one day and when he saw these beggars, he commented, they don’t look starved,whom are they kidding.In another instance when I saw a Policeman scolding a disabled child on crutches, I felt bad but was surprised when the child left his crutches and started running.There are very few genuine cases,most of them don’t want to be rehabilitated.The friendly neighbourhood policeman has his own interest in letting them continue.There is a law and order angle to it also.These beggars are capable of snatching your purses or mobile phones.

  2. March 3, 2007 1:19 am

    Nita – this seems very much a social structural problem, with similar difficulties as is faced with the slum re-development problem. Obviously the begging business is well-engrained one which has been going on for several generations or more. Seizing children off the streets, sending them to remand homes for one month, charging a fine for their parents most likely is a cycle that keeps repeating, on and on. There is a small similarity here with our generations of welfare users. There is also an increase in people begging here over the last 20 or so years. However, you point out that it is education which propels people forward to seeking a better life for themselves, and maybe a thrust in that direction might be in order. However, the systems of educating and their philosophies must be revisited to find out whether they merely push forward the status quo, without adressing the changing needs of societies. And that takes visionary thinking, something the world is very short on, everywhere!

  3. March 6, 2007 12:14 pm

    This is a very good blog. I have reproduced a few of your articles in my news archives at since I think they deserve to be more widely read. See I hope this meets with your approval.

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