BENGALURU: Commercial centres of the city that house several private firms, restaurants and pubs are also a hub for children being forced into begging or selling on the streets, according to city NGOs. Four NGOs that partner with Childline 1098 find that a majority of complaint calls they receive for the above cases in Bengaluru come from Trinity Circle, MG Road, Brigade Road, Church street and Koramangala.
Sheila Devaraj, director of Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), said, "We receive close to 30 complaints regarding children begging per month, and many of them are from MG Road, Trinity Circle and surrounding areas. As part of a three-day survey we conducted in the Central Business District (CBD) areas of Bengaluru, we found several children and infants on the streets till as late as 6 pm to 11 pm. In just one day, we found 15 to 20 children in these areas. Some were begging along with women who claimed to be their mothers. Others sold flowers and pens."
Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), Bangalore Oniyavara Seva Coota (BOSCO), Society for Assistance to Children in Difficult Situation (SATHI), and Child Rights Trust (CRT) collaborate to run the Childline service in the city. They come under the Childline Foundation of India, which works with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India. They claimed to have intervened in 731 cases of child labour in the city from 2017 to September 2018. As for begging, the number is 352.
"Fifteen to twenty per cent of the children come from places such as Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. They are lured by agents with the promise of education, shelter and food. Girls, below the age of 14-15 years, are forced into labour more than the boys. Apart from these central areas, we find children working in the unorganised sector on Mysuru Road, Madiwala and Shivajinagar. This work is concealed as employers have become aware of child protection officers and law that forbid children from working," said Vasudeva Sharma, executive director of CRT.
"The girls are dressed up in sarees to look older and given fake certificates that say they are of working age. They work in plastic waste recycling units in sheds that are hard to locate, and packaging and shoe-making industries. When we reach the spot, the children run away from us as they are told by employers and agents that we will put them in jail. This kind of misinformation makes it difficult to rescue them. If it is a case of begging on the streets, women posing as mothers intervene when we try to rescue the kids by giving some excuse," Vasudeva added.
Nagamani, nodal cordinator of Childline in Bengaluru, said, "Girls are made to stand and beg near bars and restaurants on Church Street and nearby roads at night. This is a threat to their safety as well. If we put together all the complaints we have managed to intervene in, including child begging, sexual abuse, labour, marriage and other issues – from April to September 2018 – the figures add up to 1,506 in the Bengaluru Urban area only."
This figure does not include those children who have escaped, and a vast majority of cases go unreported. SATHI, which works with children rescued from railway stations, has found several who have run away from home or are abandoned. From Yeshwanthpur and Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna railway stations, they found 975 cases of runaway kids from April to September this year.
As per procedure, rescued children are presented before the Child Welfare Committees (CWCs), after which they are either sent to government-run homes or childcare institutions run by NGOs. If the officials are able to trace the child's native place, they are sent back to where they come from. It is easier if the child is from districts within Karnataka, as there are CWCs in Zilla Parishads. It takes longer to send the child back home, if they are from other states of India.