Birthdays are always exciting and all the more for students. College life cannot be full without birthday parties.
Today I went to a birthday celebration at a popular hangout in the BHU campus, Varanasi. All students had gathered around and were eagerly waiting for the cake to be cut. But we could see an unwelcome visitor in our midst. She inquired when the cake would be cut and said that she needs some.
As I looked at her closely, I found that she seemed to be a minor and did not belong to our social circle. I noticed her asking some people for alms and then realised that the girl was a beggar. My interaction with her revealed that she stayed with her mother and three siblings in a nearby place. She told me that she had never gone to school. She continued her tale and told me that she thought she would continue begging for as long as she lives.
By the time we cut the cake, two more children just like her came up to us too. The others were much younger to her and were selling balloons.
This was not the first time that I had seen kids begging in BHU and IIT. Access to the university grounds is pretty easy. People from nearby villages come to collect grass, the BHU main roads are used by the settlers who stay in and around BHU. The campus also attracts pilgrims to its Vishwanath temple. Though restricting general public may be difficult in the present scenario, I think strong measures have to be taken to counter begging inside the campus or any other campus for that matter.
Begging inside a campus that promotes knowledge is an oxymoron. A university is a place where ideas are supposed to be generated, issues in the mainstream universe gets solved and the progress of the universe is visualized. The presence of such social evil in such institutions would tarnish the sanctity of the institution and the very purpose of education. We are kept in the dark as to whether these children are encouraged to beg due to the predicament of the family or are victims of child trafficking rackets. The university has to take up a project wherein these children are properly studied and measures are taken to ensure that they get access to education. A minimum support mechanism can be created for the dependents if any. Leaving such children as they are is costly. We are encouraging a generation of beggars. On the other hand we may also be indirectly opening avenues for theft.
Why is it that a temple of knowledge is not affected by children begging in its own institution? Why do universities – to which the nation look for solutions – harbour such evil in themselves? Are universities becoming hypocritical? Is our education system being reduced to skill development and employers producing machines which has nothing to do with the deeper questions of the society? Can some BHU students join together and voice to the administration and bring shine in the face of the ones who beg?
The birthday girl cut the cake. Her friends enjoyed. But will this birthday and this encounter with child beggars open our eyes and encourage us to do something so that these begging children can celebrate their birthday with dignity?