New life sought for Delhi’s rescued beggar kids

March 1st, 2008 - 5:28 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, March 1 (IANS) A leading rights activist has demanded the immediate rehabilitation of 13 children rescued by an NGO from goons who used to force them to beg near the diplomatic quarter in the capital. The children are now living in a juvenile home and their case will be dealt under the Juvenile Justice Act.

But Kailash Satyarthi of Bachpan Bachao Aandolan (BBA), which freed the children, told IANS that the case should be taken up under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act that will entitle them rehabilitation benefits.

He said it was necessary to provide the kids, whose age ranges from seven to 16, a new life, failing which they would return to the drudgery of begging.

Wearing torn clothes and misery stamped all over them, the children were rescued from south Delhi’s Moti Bagh area last week, thanks to BBA activists.

Satyarthi said: “The children have been placed with the Child Welfare Committee and are in a juvenile home. They are treated under the juvenile law, which is complicated. We would rather that they are treated under the bonded labour law, which will entitle them to rehabilitation.

“After all rehabilitation is very important to ensure that they are not swept back into the vicious cycle of child labour. The bonded labour law would give the child’s family a sum of Rs.20,000-25,000 and also lead to criminal charges against people who forced them into labour.”

Although the BBA had identified 20 children as beggars at Moti Bagh, they could rescue only 13 as those running the racket managed to take away the rest. Of those rescued, seven were girls and six boys.

“When we conducted the raid, we realised that we were being watched by the goons who had forced the children into begging. The goons made the rest run away,” Satyarthi said.

Shanti, one of the rescued children, said she hails from Ajmer in Rajasthan and was brought to New Delhi by a woman three years ago.

“I came here when I was seven years old with a woman called Kali. She used to come to my village every day and talk to my mother. One day my mother told me to pack my bags to go to Delhi with her.

“So with seven other children from my village I came here. I was forced to tear my clothes and not bathe for months so that I could look miserable and could get more money from passers-by. We were given food only once a day so that we looked thin and malnourished,” she said.

The children said that not only were they forced to beg from eight in the morning to 11 at night but also beaten every day. They were also given a kind of tobacco called ‘gul’ to survive harsh environmental conditions and beatings.

Seven-year-old Suraj, the youngest child rescued in the raid, is mentally unstable. Therefore, despite wanting to go home, he is unable to recall where he came from.

“I was made to beg on different traffic signals by Tony and he used to beat me a lot as I could not complete the target of earning Rs.300 per day.

“People from whom I ask for money are very rich as their cars are huge in size. I also want to be like them - rich and strong,” said Suraj.

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