In what could one of its most ambitious social welfare exercise, the Delhi government will round-up and rehabilitate children begging at traffic signals/streets or junction points of the city.
According to sources, the social welfare department of the government is planning to activate a committee, headed by a district magistrate, for addressing child labour issues — such as rescuing child labourers and rounding up children begging on the street — and admitting them in child institutions.
Sources said the government has received inputs that a number of gangs were operating in the city who forced children to beg. The government wants to crack down on these gangs. Officials said so far no survey of child beggars has been conducted but according to an NGO there are over 50,000 street children in the city.
The committee, which functions under a district magistrate, has representatives of all stakeholders — such as NGOs working for child labour, police, district protection unit, child welfare committee, among others — in it.
Sources said the committee members will be asked to conduct inspections and if they spot children begging on the streets they will interact with them and persuade them to join child care institutions.
Officials said that in cases where parents forced the children to beg, the committee will first try to counsel the parents so that they allowed their kids to be enrolled in schools. “Naturally the parents will be reluctant to send their kids to child institutions as it will mean a huge loss of wages for them. Our team will counsel them and explain that if the kids underwent training at our institutes, they will be able to earn much more and in a more respectful way,” said an official.
“Beggary is a form of child labour and hence we decided to use this committee for this purpose. Our government run homes and those operated by NGOs have 50% capacity to accommodate the children once they are picked up by the committee. We need to adopt a holistic approach to tackle this issue as even for beggars institutionalization is the last resort,” said a senior Delhi government official.
The department is also conducting a major workshop next week to get more ideas from the stakeholders how to address this issue of child beggary. “We are open to ideas and which is why we have kept a workshop. So far we feel children have to be rehabilitated and that can only happen if they are sent to school and we put and immediate stop to any kind of begging by them,” said a senior Delhi government official.
The department has invited expression of interest from NGOs that have sufficient space available and have worked in the field of child protection, de-addiction, and have run child beggary focused residential homes. They will be given the license to run homes in the city and will be funded by government.