Woman, son force minor girls to beg
When the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), as part of its anti-begging drive, rescued a group of six children found begging in the Majestic area here, recently, little did they know that it was part of a larger begging racket. During counselling, the rescued children, all aged between 7 and 12, revealed that they were staying in a house at Yelahanka with Jayaram and his mother Lakshmi Devi. The mother and son, they said, were forcing them to beg and hand over the “daily earning” to them in return for two meals a day.
When the CWC verified previous records, it came across the name of Jayaram, who had a previous history of running a begging mafia.
CWC chairperson Meena Jain said that a minor girl, whom they had rescued from Majestic last year, revealed that she was forced to beg by Jayaram. The victim was sent to one of their rehabilitation centres and the matter brought to the notice of the authorities concerned, but in vain, she said.
The girls who were rescued recently too told the CWC that their “caretaker” Jayaram would bring them from Yelahanka to Majestic and return only in the evening to pick them up. The victims claimed they were beaten up and verbally abused if they “earned” less money.
Following a complaint from the CWC, the Yelahanka police have detained Jayaram. They said Jayaram used to bring children from Pavagada in Tumkur district, especially during the festival season, to beg.
The girls recently rescued were brought to the city during Ramzan. Jayaram was planning to bring another group of girls for Ganesh festival to make the most of the charitable spirit during the season, the police said.
CWC, which has prepared a report on the begging mafia, would hold a meeting with the police soon to seek their help in curbing the menace, Ms. Jain said.
Joint Commissioner of Police Pranab Mohanty, who is the nodal officer for the anti-begging drive, said the police would seek the help of the CWC in the rehabilitation of the victims.
The CWC, which rescued around 60 children with the help of the police in the anti-begging drive taken up over a month, is housing them in the rehabilitation centre here.
The committee said it has been receiving calls from politicians, recommending that the children be sent back to their parents.
“We have received at least three calls in the past few days from MLAs and their families asking us to send the children to their parents. They argued that the children were not begging, but working to earn their daily bread,” CWC member P.N. Basavaraj said.
‘Against the law’
“It is funny, as the elected representatives themselves are unaware of the law, as according to the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, it is illegal for any child below the age of 18 to either beg or work,” he said.
This is not only a violation of the JJ Act but also a violation of the Right to Education Act and fundamental rights, he said.
“However, we had no option but to release around 15 children after their parents gave an undertaking to admit them to school,” Mr. Basavaraj said.