It is rather surprising how the number of children begging on the streets of Chennai is rising by the year, despite the rescue efforts by the police, the government and the local NGOs. According to a report by the Times of India, the district child protection units (DCPU) rescued close to 143 child beggars till June this year. The numbers are pretty high as compared to last year which is encouraging in a way. However, there is much more to the facts than what meets the eyes.
Authorities believe that 40% of the rescued children land back in the net, piling up to the existing numbers every year. Incidentally, it is also believed that the beggar mafia has diversified its usage of children on streets and a major transition has been seen in the trend. Now, children are also used as street vendors and performers, apart from begging for alms directly.
Unfortunately, while number of 'rescues' have gone up considerably, there is hardly any information available on the action taken thereafter. A DCPU official, speaking to the media, said, "There could be more as NGOs and police too rescue children independently and produce them before the Child Welfare Committees (CWCs)." Interestingly, it has been seen that many of the rescued children have been rescued for the second time as they have been pushed back into the nexus by their parents of by people who pass off as their parents.
Member of CWC Kancheepuram, Zaheeruddin Mohamad said that close to 80% of the rescued children are sent back to their parents with a warning. Then, he confirms, "And we’ve seen the same faces more than once. We don’t have the facility to check if these adults are their real parents, and how to ensure they don’t send children back to the streets even if they are."
There is another angle to it. The case runs cold after the rescue, opines Joseph Leo, director of Don Bosco Anbul Illam- an organisation that directly works with street children. Last month, they rescued six children from Anna Salai. He said, "The children, aged between 11 and 15 years, hail from different states and spoke different languages. The minute we picked them up a man came forward introducing himself as their father. There were a lot of gaps in his story."
He further added that some of the children were produced in front of the CWC in their districts, while a few stayed in registered homes in Chennai. However, there was no information on the children thereafter. Neither was any information dug out about the traffickers.
Some of the major spots in the city where these child beggars can be found include the Marina Beach, Tidel Park junction, L B Road, Koyambedu bus stand and the Nungambakkam High Road.