A 10-year-old child who had been abandoned by his parents was begging on the streets near Manimajra motor market. On Saturday, he was rescued and sent to Snehalaya, the children’s home run by the Chandigarh Administration. At the time of his rescue, he was sniffing a bottle of whitener fluid. At the children’s home, he will attend a de-addiction camp for substance abuse.
On Monday, another boy of the same age was rescued, again from near Manimajra. He, too, was sniffing a substance. The boy’s parents’ whereabouts are not known, but he was living with his grandmother and he begged to make a living for both of them.
A third child, a girl, found begging in Sector 38, has also been rescued and sent to Snehalaya. The three children were found during a survey by a team of students interning with the Child Rights Commission. The 30 students from Panjab University’s (PU) law and Social Welfare departments are conducting a survey of child beggars in the city. The survey began a few days ago.
Prof Devi Sirohi, chairperson of the Commission for Protection of Child Rights said this was the second time that the commission was offering the internship. “After the commission was set up in February last year, we started with the internship programmes. Last year, a programme was held but it was not very specific”, said Prof Sirohi.
She added that this year, the commission is trying to enumerate children begging on the streets and study the factors that force them into it. “There are five teams, comprising a team leader and five members. They are talking to and interviewing these children. They are taking a head count.”
Although rescuing the children is not the primary focus of the survey, the students said whenever they have found a child who does not know where his parents are, they have taken him or her to Snehalaya.
“We tried to find out what it was that these two children were inhaling. It was a white fluid,” said Akshay, a student of the University Institute of Legal Studies.
When they found the girl child and asked her who her parents were, she took the students to a couple.
“However, the couple was not able to produce any documentary proof that they were the girl’s parents. After we enquired about her from other children in the locality, we were told that she was brought by the couple a few days back and she was not their child. We informed the helpline and the girl was shifted to Snehalaya,” said Youdhvir Singh, a history research scholar at PU.
Youdhvir said, “It is difficult to approach the children because they are taught to run away from the spot when they see someone like us coming to us.”
Akshay added that sometimes their parents are nearby, selling balloons or other things at signals. “They call the children when we talk to them”, said Akshay.
The teams of students are visiting motor markets, light points, two lakes in the city and other tourist organisations with survey forms to collect the information.
Till now, according to Prof Sirohi, there has been no comprehensive survey of child beggars in the city. “There have been localised surveys in some pockets of the city. A figure of 4,000 child beggars was released once but it was not a comprehensive survey of the sociological factors and where these children are coming from”, she said,Prof Sirhoi added that in the past four days, since the survey was started, it was indicated that these children are coming from other states. “Some of them have never lived in a home.”, she said.
The survey will conclude by the month-end and a report will be submitted to the Administration.
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