Running swiftly, barefeet, from one vehicle to another to get maximum alms, 10-year-old Chanchal strives hard to outdo his fellows in a span of 69 seconds as he pastures commuters to fetch some money at the Sector 34-35 light point. Similarly at the busy Sector-34 market, Sonu, 14, can be seen seeking alms or food, and catches up with Chanchal at the light point.
Chanchal said he studies in Class 3 and stays in Sector 22. When asked about his earnings, Chanchal evades the question and ran away.
Chanchal and Sonu are among hundreds of kids who are deprived of living a normal life — just like any other child of their age — because of the ever-growing menace of begging in the City Beautiful.
Though the Chandigarh administration has announced several proposals to improve the situation, the menace continues to grow unabated.
The Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CCPCR) had conducted a survey last year to get to the depth of the begging menace. Now once again, the administration is mulling to launch a strategic plan to rehabilitate such children. A visit to some prominent places, including Sector 34-35 light point, markets of sectors 15, 17, 22, 26, 34, 37 and 44, reveal such children are now made to beg under the guise of seeking balloons. Even infants are not spared. Women carrying babies, as small as six-month-old — asleep most of the time — can be seen asking for alms in the scorching heat.
The CCPCR survey highlighted there are over 1,200 child beggars across the city, of which 40% go to schools. After attending school, they take to the markets and prominent light points to seek alms; during weekends, they work fulltime.
Most beggars, mostly children of migrant people, are from states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar.
CCPCR chairperson Devi Sirohi says, “It’s a complete racket drawn out to use children as a bait to fetch money. They are given targets by their masters, and every day in the evening, they have to report to them with the earnings of the entire day. Recently, it was found about 10 children were putting up in a bus in Manimajra.”
She added, “A detailed plan is being prepared to rescue them, and a mass sensitisation drive will be carried out across the city to put an end to the menace. Deputy commissioner Ajit Balaji Joshi will also hold a meeting in this regard this week.”
Given drugs by their masters
The city has over 1,200 child beggars and majority of them are found in Sector 20 and its surrounding areas like Sectors 15, 17, 20, 22, 34, 35, 40, 44 markets. Aging between 10 and 14, most of them are putting up in colonies of Hallomajra, Dadumajra and Colony Number 4. Many of them attend schools and beg only during weekends, earning around Rs 300-500 a day.
They also do some other menial tasks like selling balloons, toys and tissues. To tap to the rush, they sit outside temples and mosques on Tuesday and Thursday. It has been learnt some of them are even provided drugs by their masters.
Earlier plans failed
During a drive started in August last year, the administration had planned to pick all the children found begging on the city roads for rehabilitation. However, during the month long drive, many parents had raised voice by shouting slogans against the administration for rounding up their children. Another similar effort by the administration also failed due to no sustained efforts.