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India News for May 25, 2007
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India News for May 25, 2007

Just recall the kid that you shouted at last time at a traffic signal, after he or she knocked at your car window pane.

By Sandeep Datta/Ravinder Sheoran

New Delhi, May 25 : Just recall the kid that you shouted at last time at a traffic signal, after he or she knocked at your car window pane.

These are child beggars who present a sad look standing at traffic signals, hoping to receive the elusive rupee or two. Most of them do so at the bidding of their 'owners' who keep a watch on them, and promptly collect the money.

Many a time these 'owners' or gang leaders some of them females keep a check if any child is seen eating or stealing out of the begged things. They are then beaten black and blue.

The 'owners' many a time are their uncles and aunts, who lure them to cities from the villages. These children live a life of bonded labour in the cities.

Every day, the beggars hand over the money and the eatables given to them to their owners, who make sure that the children remain 'needy' and could be 'starved into submission'.

The hapless children also have to submit themselves to physical abuse in the evenings. It could be the elders, who bring them from the villages, or anyone who pays money to the elders.

The girl beggars, in addition, have to silently submit themselves to being teased by traffic policemen, lorry drivers and rickshaw-pullers.

Their world consists of the traffic signals, and the slum habitat where they have to sleep and relieve themselves.

"My uncle takes away my daily-earnings and arranges food for us. e are four sisters and all of them work at this traffic signal. Many people are kind but most of the people are very rude. There are people who gaze at us in a bad way," says 14-year-old Anita who is normally seen at the Moti Bagh crossing.

Asked whether she likes to be rescued and sent to a school, Anita said:" I do not want to go to school, as I will not get any money there. I need money to send it to my mother, who is ill. I earn a little more money by selling flowers "

Anita and her three sisters live from day-to-day. And begging has been their life, and going to be their career for the foreseeable future.

There are also occasional beggars, those who are in the daily wage business and take to begging when the going gets tough.

"We don't have a permanent house. I'm married. The family's financial condition compels me to beg. I need 20,000 rupees (400 dollars), as the initial amount to arrange for a small home. By begging, I earn at least 200 to 300 rupees a day," said Pinki (name changed) at Chandni Chowk.

"The 'owners' of these beggars train the children for the profession. They are taught to carry crutches appear disabled," says Rakesh Seneger, National Secretary, Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

"In Delhi, Rohini's 'Lal Quarters' is one place where training centres for child beggars are located. After training the children are sent to Mahipalpur, Mehrauli and Vasant Kunj traffic signals. These are cherished spots which fetch maximum daily earnings," said Seneger.

Begging is also seen as a respectable activity in India. Purshotam Aggarwal, a sociologist says: "Giving in charity is part of religion. For that you have to have the people who receive the charity. Unfortunately, in India, we have not been able to evolve a mechanism for organised charity."

The Indian Penal Code (Section 363A) deals with the kidnapping and maiming of a minor for purposes of begging.

Since 1961, Delhi has been administered by the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which makes begging in public places a crime and a punishable offence.

Maxwell Pereira, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) once said: The first thing every tourist learns about India is that it is a land of beggars."

ANI

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