Tiruchi and its neighbouring areas are known for their ancient temples and historic sites – and a steady flow of pilgrims and tourists. Taking advantage of this constant influx of people, a large number of women resort to child beggary at these temples and historical sites.
Usually, a child is tied to their waist with a thick piece of cloth. They walk around with the child demanding alms and sometimes even follow people continuously pestering them for money. Depending on the festive calendar, they choose place such as Samayapuram, Tiruvanaikovil or Tiruvellarai.
Among all the shrines in the district, Samayapuram Mariamman temple seems to be the most convenient place for these women beggars.
A large number of devotees converge at the shrine thrice a week – Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays – besides new moon day. This is in addition to the annual temple festivals besides Navarathri. As an estimated six lakh devotees converged at Samayapuram temple last Sunday, as it was a new moon day, significant numbers of beggars too were seen stalking the devotees at various points around the temple including the west gate, bus stop, car parking area, and Annadhanam exit point.
According to police officials and advocates, several issues are involved in eliminating the nuisance. “Although such beggars can be booked under the Juvenile Justice Act, which entails a maximum punishment of three years of imprisonment and fine, the police desist from taking action as it involves women and children,” says Jayanthi Rani, an advocate and child rights activists in Tiruchi. She said that a comprehensive plan for the rehabilitation, counselling, and education of children should be taken up.
A social welfare department official says that most of these women belonged to northern states and they move from one place to another.
Several places, including traffic signals, number1 toll gate, Tiruvellarai, and Samayapuram are turning out to be ‘prospective’ places for these beggars, the official added. S. Rajeswari, Superintendent of Police, Tiruchi, says that these women could be brought and accommodated in government-run welfare homes.