Save the poor child from cruel treatment, exploitation & abuse by Beggars

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Article 326 of the Constitution of India states that the elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of every State shall be on the basis of adult suffrage; that is to say, every person who is a citizen of India and who is not less than eighteen years of age, shall be entitled to vote at any such election. Children are invariably minors with age spread from 14 years to less than 18 years, depending upon the circumstances and applicable laws. The age considered under Article 23 of the Constitution for the purpose of prohibition of employment of a minor in factories and mines is below age of 14 years. As per the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation), Act, 1986, “child” means any person who has not completed his fourteen years of age. Whereas, Child as defined under section 2(2) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, means a person who has not completed eighteen years of age.

By no definition under the existing laws, a child or a minor is qualified to vote as it is a prerogative available only to the adults. No wonder why despite global awareness and concern for protection of Human Rights of Children, this section of Society has remained neglected even today. The innocent, weak and vulnerable child has no attention of our Law makers, who have their natural inclination towards attending the needs of the strong, potent and powerful vote banks (sic), be it the issue of farmers or giving reservation to a particular faction of the society.

The problems related to exploitation of Children is not new and have been discussed at various national and international levels. There are plethora of legislation which caters to protection of Human Rights of Children consistent with widely accepted International Conventions. The problem of child labour, child marriages, female foeticide, etc have been controlled to some satisfaction. However, the situation of Human Rights of Children with respect to child abuse in India is dreadful. Child abuse is taking place every day in broad day light in the major metropolitan cities including Mumbai and its suburbs.

Most of us travel for the purpose of work and leisure within a city, state or across the Nation. We plan our schedule meticulously and vow to follow it religiously. When we stop at a traffic signal, move in local trains, or halt at a Railway platform, walk on marine drive, exit from the Airport or peek outside from a Café or a Restaurant in a posh location, we would have certainly observed a seemingly indigent women carrying a miserable looking infant living in unhygienic conditions, filthy clothes (mostly without clothes), mostly asleep or crying (quite possibly dozed with intoxicants) for seeking our attention while being exposed to severe climatic conditions and hunger, while we try to protect ourselves from severe climatic conditions (heat, dust, winter) and the pollution by making ourselves comfortable in an air-conditioned environment.

We sympathize with the child and the women does well in receiving alms in return of our sympathies for the impoverished, undernourished and unfortunate child. Unfortunate because no mother would give birth to a child to inflict upon it such pain and misery at a tender age many times even less than one year. Even the animals have better sense of care and affection towards their younger ones and would fight to protect them from predatory environment of a Jungle.

What would be the fate of such infant? He or she would either soon succumb to the cruelty or in case of survival would for sure suffer mental and physical disabilities, with which he or she will always be excluded from the mainstream and never be allowed to live with respect and dignity.

Reasons of begging may be attributed to poverty, disparity and the urban rural divide, burgeoning population, lack of enforcement of laws by the executive. Besides, this may as well be an organized crime where the infants are treated as a commodity. Perhaps, there is not enough Government data or record which monitors the existence of such children. Are they being used as trading exchanges of organs such as eyes, heart, liver, etc which yet another illegal and draconian business finds huge demand from the rich and affluent from overseas. Is the future of India being abused as harvesting grounds of human organs?

It is not the Government but every ‘adult’ and ‘responsible’ citizen is equally to be blamed for the violation of human rights of Children. National Commission of Protection of Children Rights (NCPCR), ChildLine (1098) and some NGOs have been consistently working to eradicate the malaise of child abuse from the Society. Their contributions are notable though not at all adequate.

Mahatma Gandhi once said “If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” This is high time that we empathise with such children treating them as own and save their lives from the clutches of organised begging and child abuse lest the future will not forgive us. Neither the Judiciary nor the Executive, leave aside the Law makers of our Country, are competent to deal with the problem of child abuse on their own. This requires a collective effort and a mass movement to prevent child abuse in begging and also challenge the lethargic attitude of authorities thus making them accountable for violation of basic fundamental rights.