No long-term rehabilitation for street children
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.
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