There were many who gave alms to Seetha (name changed), mother of Radha (name changed), a two-year old, who was carried naked by her mother. The mother did not clothe her daughter as she wanted to attract the pity of the public towards her boil-filled body.

Seetha, from North India, frequented a few signals in North Coimbatore for many days even as the child’s condition deteriorated. While many among the public, as a duty, doled out a few coins or rupee notes, there were a few others who did otherwise. They took the trouble of dialling 1098 of Childline, the lifeline for children in distress.

Childline representatives visited the signals to rescue the child and provide treatment. But their attempts went in vain as the young mother always managed to escape. When Childline realised that it was unable to rescue the child, it sought the help of the city police.

Special constables were deputed to the signals to get hold of the mother. But Seetha eluded them too. It took the police almost a week to get hold of the mother and child and hand them over to Childline. The child was admitted to a private hospital and treated for the boils.

Recounting the experience, S. Uma, Childline Co-ordinator, says this has been one of the most challenging cases for the organisation.

“It was only with the concerted efforts of the police that we were able to rescue the child. Even afterwards, we were not able to take the child for treatment. The mother had a huge group of relatives and others from her native place behind her denying us passage to take the child to a hospital. The public too was not keen that we take the child for medical attention,” she says.

Lamenting that it is becoming increasingly difficult to curb the menace of alms seeking, especially that involving children, she says it is only because of alms giving did alms seekers thrive on. The alms seekers also refuse to get rehabilitated and lead a life of dignity.

Once the Chidline rescues a child, it has to be registered with the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), which takes a decision on the future of the child. But in the case of Radha, there were many hurdles.

As Radha was receiving treatment in an undisclosed hospital, Seetha and her relatives kept hounding the Childline office for information about the child, promising the officials that they would take care of her.

P. Samson, Chairman of CWC Coimbatore, says that this indeed was a unique case. “The mother and relatives were insistent that they wanted the child back and promised to take good care of her. Since the child was too young, we believed that it was only right for her to live with the mother”.

The child has been handed over to the mother on receiving a surety from a local guardian who will keep the CWC informed of the child’s progress. The mother has also promised to stay away from alms seeking and take the child to her native in North India.

Childline and CWC believe that if this much effort is going to be needed to rescue each and every child involved in alms seeking, it is going to become a Herculean task. They urge the public to call 1098 every time they find a child seeking alms or an adult using a child to seek alms and not take the easy way of dropping a coin into the extended bowl.

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