In India, child begging is a pressing issue that frequently occurs at busy intersections, where young children solicit money from passing vehicles. Despite being illegal, this practice persists, depriving children of their right to education and a happy childhood, effectively subjecting them to modern-day forms of exploitation. This unfortunate situation is most prevalent in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, where children often operate in groups and are coerced into begging by their parents or human traffickers for financial gain.
The Borgen Project recently interviewed Bandhana, a woman dedicated to aiding these children on a grassroots level by providing them with access to quality education and encouraging school attendance. She highlighted several underlying factors contributing to the issue of child begging, which are discussed below.
Between 2015 and 2021, approximately 415 million individuals lifted themselves out of poverty, resulting in a decrease in the poverty rate from 55% to 16% over the past decade. However, due to the large population of the country, poverty remains a significant issue in impoverished households. Oftentimes, young children are compelled to contribute to their household’s finances by earning money through begging, because of their parents’ poverty. Unfortunately, in many cases, these children are subjected to abuse to appear more pitiful and thus earn more money by emotionally manipulating individuals.
Lack of Education
The poor quality of education is causing children to resort to begging, abuse and harassment. Discrimination in classrooms, caste systems and lack of resources are forcing children to take to the streets to beg for money. To address this issue, life skills should be included in the curriculum to equip children with practical skills for their daily lives. Bandhana notes that in some schools, there are no qualified teachers to teach students, leading to a lack of motivation to attend school. Additionally, the pandemic has affected education as government schools have not been able to provide online education due to a lack of resources.
Children are kidnapped from their hometowns and sold in the big cities to beg on the roads. According to the Human Rights Commission of India, 40,000 children are abducted every year of which 25% remain untraced. They are brutally tortured and abused and sometimes their limbs are cut so that they can get more sympathy from the people and earn more money. The children are sold for some thousands and their families never know about their kids. Sometimes the children run away from their dealers and get united with their families with the help of the police but most of the time, they have to spend their whole life in those horrific circumstances.
India has multiple borders with countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, which often leads to illegal immigration. Many migrants, due to unemployment and poverty, force their children to beg on the streets for extra financial support. In 2015, approximately 15,000 Bangladeshis were granted Indian citizenship because they were living within Indian territories. The majority of migrants cross the border in search of better livelihoods, employment and quality of life, but their dreams are shattered when they are forced to beg for money and live in poverty.
Various begging techniques are enforced by the traffickers on the children like selling flowers, following the people on the roads and many more. The children get injured while begging on busy roads. Bandhana stated that she noticed some children giving wishes to the couples and then forcefully asking for money. Sometimes they come in groups and force people to give them money. People try to offer some food, but they decline and want only money so they can pay their traffickers.
Each state has anti-begging laws in place to protect children’s human rights. According to the Indian Penal Code of 1860, any form of child exploitation is a criminal offense. Section 363A specifically prohibits kidnapping and abduction of children. Additionally, each state in the country has its own set of acts and codes to prevent child begging.
The Railway Children organization is dedicated to improving the lives of street children in various states such as Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Tamil Nadu. They have established 24-hour helplines at railway stations to assist children who are alone and in need of help. Additionally, they offer short- and long-term accommodations where children can receive educational and medical support. They have protected 20,337 children from dangers, 20,082 have been reunited with their families and 140 children have been provided long-term care homes.
To address the serious problem of child begging, there is a need for the government to work in conjunction with the police force to prevent the exploitation of young children. With the support and awareness of the community, these children can have access to a better quality of life and education, enabling them to have better access to opportunities in the future.
– Gurjot Kaur