46 children found seeking alms in the busy areas of Coimbatore: Childline
In a survey conducted in some busy areas of the city by volunteers of ChildLine recently, 46 children below 10 years were found seeking alms. And, out of them, only 11 were male children.
Four groups of three members each from ChildLine found these children seeking alms in Gandhipuram, Town Hall, 100 Feet Road, CMCH, Ramanathapuram and Arts College Road. The helpline officials say that there would have been more if the survey was conducted in the whole of Coimbatore, thanks to the public who encourage them by giving them alms.
Drives have been organised by the Police, Corporation and District Administration to remove adults seeking alms from the streets and house them in the Corporation Shelter in R.S. Puram, in which out of the few hundred adults, a few are always children. But in the recent survey ChildLine was surprised to find that all the children who were found seeking alms were doing so individually.
Co-ordinator at ChildLine S. Uma, says that the decision to conduct a survey was made after there were repeated complaints to the helpline from the public that many children were found seeking alms in prominent shopping areas and at some signals. In 2011 the number was considerably less. But in 2012 it increased.
“A survey conducted in 2009 by college students found 412 people seeking alms. Accordingly, a drive was held the same year involving the Corporation, District Administration, Police, Don Bosco Anbu Illam and other organisations. We were able to rescue 317 adults and 44 children. A subsequent drive in 2010 June was able to identify 46 adults,” she says.
The drive, accompanied by strict measures by the Police, saw a visible decline in alms seeking in 2011.
While the helpline was aware that the number of alms seekers was on the rise this year, the high percentage of children among them was alarming, especially girls.
Officials from ChildLine and District Child Protection Office say that when teams go to rescue the children, they are faced with resistance by the groups the children belong to, or sometimes even from the public.
“It is sad that they think that we are doing them an injustice. There are many instances where the public intervene and force us to let the children remain on the roads. We cannot rescue anyone forcefully. Many girl children who seek alms and sleep on the roads have been sexually abused. They do not want to live in a protected environment. Even if they are brought and kept in a safe place, their parents, guardians or others known to them, force us to send the children back,” says an official.
The children found seeking alms in the recent survey are from Bangalore, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Madurai.
A report on these children was submitted to the authorities concerned on October 30. Reliable sources say that various measures are being worked out to curb alms seeking in children. To begin with, an awareness campaign involving college students is being planned.
The campaign will focus on alms seeking in children, sexual offences against children, and child labour.
Students will use street plays and rallies to make public aware of these evils. This series will be followed up with other measures.
But at the end of it all, the officials say that it is the public that has a major role to play in curbing the menace of alms seeking in children.
They should make a resolution not to give alms to children, how much ever sympathetic they feel towards them.
Rehabilitation of child alms seekers is possible only when they do not get money or food from the public.