Delhi

Child begging remains a worry

Bleak future: A child begging at a traffic signal in Delhi.  

At the busy ITO intersection on a Sunday morning, seven-year-old Anjali was going from one vehicle to another seeking alms. A little distance away, Durga, 20, who identified herself as Anjali’s mother, was selling pens, carrying a baby in her arms.

“We are residents of an area near Jaipur and came to Delhi during the lockdown in search of work. My husband is a daily-wage labourer,” Durga said. She, however, refused to talk further and walked away in a hurry with another woman.

There were at least four child beggars at the intersection, which is hardly one km from the Delhi Secretariat.

Despite laws and multiple directions by the Government to end child begging, it is still a menace in the Capital.

The Delhi High Court had on August 13 issued notices to the Centre, Delhi Government and Delhi Police on a PIL for eradication of child begging in the city. Since then, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has coordinated the rescue of 69 children from different areas, officials said.

As per the results of a study carried out by the Delhi Government and the Institute for Human Development, which were made public in November, there are a total of 4,871 child beggars in the Capital. But activists call the number a “gross underestimate” and say the figure has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In many cases, the family members push the child into begging. These cases are difficult because when such a child is presented before a Child Welfare Committee (CWC), the parents want the child back and they eventually end up in the street again,” said Amod K. Kanth, ex-IPS officer and founder of Prayas, an NGO working for children.

Mr. Kanth said the Government and the judiciary are in a way against institutional care for children.

Children in need of care

“There are 20 million children who are either orphans or homeless or on the streets in India. They should be given a roof over their heads, but the children homes in the country have a capacity to accommodate only 2.5 lakh inmates. The Government is supposed to create infrastructure, but it is not supporting institutional care or non-institutional care,” he said.

Under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, a child found working in contravention of labour laws, begging, or living on the streets is called a ‘Child in Need of Care and Protection’ (CNCP).

A CNCP, according to the Act, can be presented before a CWC by any official, a social worker or a “public spirited citizen”. Even if a child has a family, but falls under the category of CNCP, the CWC can send the child to a children’s home, if it feels it is needed.

The PIL, on which the High Court had issued the notices, was filed by advocate and activist Ajay Gautam, after the authorities “failed” to act.

In 2015, he had filed a writ petition in the HC seeking an end to child begging and the HC had disposed of the petition, asking him to first approach the DCPCR. “It is open to him to institute a fresh petition before this court in case the Commission (DCPCR) fails to respond,” the HC had said in its order dated January 1, 2015.

Responding to it, on September 4, 2015, the DCPCR issued a 23-point direction to different departments to fight child begging.

Six years later, the menace is still prevalent across Delhi and in August, Mr. Gautam approached the HC stating that the Government had failed to stop the practice.

Since 2015, Mr. Gautam said, the ground reality on child begging has worsened in Delhi and now, it has become an organised crime. “A four-year-old child doesn’t beg on his own; there is always someone pushing them into this. The Government had accepted in its documents in 2015 that there were child beggars, but why is it not doing anything in this regard?” he asked.

Rashmi Singh, director, Department of Women and Child Development, Delhi, said in many cases, parents or guardians push children into begging.

“All of these children are not homeless. They stay in settlements in the city and they are forced into begging by parents and guardians in many cases. This makes it difficult for the Government to stop this practice. However, we are trying different measures to bring greater community awareness and vigil to put an end to child begging,” Ms. Singh said.

Pandemic

Apart from begging, the pandemic has forced many children to become ragpickers for survival and these children also fall under the category of CNCP.

Rabhatt, 11, was collecting bottles and plastic from waste bins in a plastic sack on his tricycle in Jor Bagh. He was neither wearing a mask nor gloves. “I live with my brother near a drain. I used to work at a hotel in Bihar, but during the lockdown, it was closed and we came here,” he said.

His teeth are stained with paan and he doesn’t go to school. “I earn about ₹300 to ₹400 a day and my brother and I send money to my parents in Bihar every month,” he added.


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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 6:17:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/child-begging-remains-a-worry/article37743450.ece

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