BENGALURU: An interim fact-finding report has come out with a damning indictment of the ‘Operation Smile’ programme launched last month to rescue children from begging.
Presenting the findings of the report, which was based on interaction with 30 children, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Bengaluru unit, and NGO — The Concerned for Working Children — told reporters that “Operation Smile resulted in immense trauma for parents and children, with absolutely no benefit.”
It may be recalled that this major operation against begging by minors was conducted by the Bengaluru City Police, Women and Child Development Department, Child Welfare Committee and many NGOs on August 6 across seven police sub-divisions. Though no official version of the total number of children rescued has come out, media reports had then specified that 190 children were rescued.
Condemning the manner in which the Operation Smile was conducted, Darshana Mitra of PUCL expressed shock over “the arbitrary manner” in which children were bundled off into rescue vans. “They were picked up for looking poor. The children were just picked up randomly from the streets without any investigation or any inquiry if they were actually begging,” she alleged.
The groups also hoped that such misguided ‘rescue’ operations are not conducted again.
V P Pavana of PUCL alleged that no protocol or procedure was followed in the entire operation. “There is no clarity on the number of children rescued and no one is talking about the rehabilitation of children,” she said.
Kavita Ratna, Director, Advocacy of The Concerned for Working Children, said the best interests of children have been disregarded. “Out of the 30 children we examined, only two were actually begging,” she alleged. “The rest were simply picked up and their poor families had to fill up many forms and struggle before their children were handed over to them,” she added.