By Parboni Bose:
I came across a little boy a few days back, with tears streaked on his cheek, lips chapped, feet bleeding and hand black with dirt, he asked me for a money because he claimed he was hungry. I was moved; I searched my purse, finding nothing to give, offered him the tiffin I was carrying, he asked me “ye kya hai” (what’s this?) I replied,”khana” (food), he said “nahi chahiye” (I don’t want it) and moved to others asking for alms.
Shocked? At least I was when this happened to me. I came back and started the process of unlearning everything I knew about beggars, I researched and the startling fact that I came across changed my perception of a lot of things. Begging, as you and I know, is an action driven by extreme need, when you are incapable of any other work and hence have to retort to the only option of letting your self-respect be at stake and beg. And this is what begging was, in the old world. For in this commercialized world, begging is no more driven by needs, but more like a business, a conning business. Organized begging has developed into one of the worst nightmares India currently faces. It is carried out by gangs, who have a well-planned structure and strategy. The areas are divided according to the population and the style of begging has evolved according to what evokes maximum sympathy. Children are kidnapped and recruited forcefully. They are often blinded or rendered disabled to evoke maximum sympathy. According to UNICEF, almost 40,000 children are kidnapped every year, denied education and forced into begging or human trafficking. In areas where this looks like a difficult plan to work, you have young entrepreneurs working by selling pens or roses or such other things, which does not give the common public a voice to complain -Â “why don’t you work?”.
In spite of all this, what doesn’t fit in the story is why would someone deny food? Isn’t it what they ask money for? The answer is no! This is where fluids come in. Fluid abuse is a term that we all have heard in the recent years. It refers to the use and abuse of a variety of fluids to get a high, or a kick. Fluids are addictive, and are used as a cheaper alternative to drugs. The presence of chemicals like Toluene, Formaldehyde, and Methanol makes these substances desirable for giving a certain sense of euphoria. Often fluids like correction fluids, shoe polish, kerosene, petrol, nail paint remover, puncture fluid etc. are administered to children who are newly recruited in these gangs, to curb the rebellion by giving them a regular dosage of these to make them dependent on such substances. After a good earning, the children are rewarded with these and it’s these substances that do not let them think of any kind of welfare for themselves. These fluids are also administered to infants, so that when their “mother” carries them around for the purpose of begging, they do not create a nuisance. Often such fluids are taken by the children themselves, because it numbs sensations, and therefore it numbs hunger for them. It lets them survive the hard life of the streets.
These fluids are often available for low prices in the market, for example, the commonly used correction fluid is available for Rs. 27 only. This makes such substances easily available for administration. In spite of the measures taken by the government in not allowing the sale of such fluids to children below 15 years of age, the abuse is uncontrollable, for the law is neither known nor followed. The effects that these fluids have on the psychological and physical health of a child are terrifying. Psychologically, not only the administration of these substances result in anti-social behavior and conduct disorders but also hallucinations, delusions, slurred speech, and lack of control and dizziness that stays for hours. These may also cause damage to nervous system and the brain, liver and kidney damage, blood oxygen depletion and a disorder called peripheral neuropathies, which makes the movement of limbs difficult. The escape is almost impossible, for these cause withdrawal symptoms and can even lead to death.
It is a vicious circle, in which the innocence of these children is mutilated and they are shaken to cruel realities of life. It’s time we become aware of organized begging and treat it like a serious crime. In spite of the welfare helpline number 1098 being released, we still are stagnant when it comes to this situation for the lack of awareness amongst us, and the lack of enough action on part of the government. We, as a society, need to wake up to this shocking truth that is destroying the childhood of the underprivileged children!