BANGALORE: Initiated six months back, the joint operation by the city police, various NGOs and stake holders - ‘Operation Rakshane’ took off many children asking alms from the roads. However, a reality check conducted by Express revealed that there are still hundreds of underaged children on the streets, begging under the influence of various drugs - and their kingpins, the beggar mafia leaders in various areas have struck gold by the hard work of these children.
Addicted to erasex and cheap illicit alcohol, mostly adulterated whiskey - that is available for just Rs 20 - hundreds of these children are seen knocking on car windows and tugging on two-wheeler riders’ hands at signals. It is a hard life for these children, aged barely between 6 - 12 years of age.
Hard Work to Satisfy Addictions
A normal working day for 10-year-old Manjunath, a beggar from Shanti Nagar, begins at 8 am and goes onto 10 pm. Post this, his ring leader meets all the 20 children from the area and they deposit their collections in a wooden box. Those who earn less than Rs 400 are not violently abused, but merely left dry for the night. Others get their daily fix as appreciation from the leader. Some huddle up in a corner with a huge bottle of erasex and start sniffing from their dirty handkerchiefs, others take quick swigs from their whiskey bottles and yet others just circle the leader.
“This is the elite group. We have exceeded expectations and earned around Rs 600 out of sheer luck. But this happens after a lot of effort. We have to constantly nag and follow people and then they give in and offer us a huge sum to leave them alone,” said Girisha, a 12-year-old from the same gang.
However, the fate of those who cant earn the designated amount is pitiable. It is after months of regular intoxication, provided for free, without having to work daily hours, that these kids develop complete dependence on their choice of drug. But not being provided with the alcohol/erasex/marijuana as a punishment for under-performance acts as a motivation for them to perform better the next day. “I’ve noticed these children for days and they crave for their addictions to be fulfilled. It is a sad situation,” said a social worker operating in the area, who chooses to remain anonymous.
Meanwhile, in other areas like Koramangala, MG Road, Brigade Road, Kamannahalli - the per day earning is high and satisfying the group heads gets tougher. “An in depth research needs to be done to arrive at a workable solution. Further, there is a need to discuss about how to cope with this and whether the civil society is encouraging this,” said Nina P Nayak, Chairperson, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR).
Authorities Plunge into Action
‘Operation Rakshane’ initiated by Bangalore City Police, a brain child of Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), Pranab Mohanty, along with Child Welfare Committees forged a collaborative initiative. “The initiative commenced with a meticulous survey and creation of data using road maps of 759 children from 158 locations with guidance of the police,” said the operation report.
The groups managed to rescue a lot of children and these children were then moved to 25 shelters located within the 7 police zones. The police further arrested several suspected traffickers and has commenced booking cases. Meanwhile, the resurgence and increase in the number of children on the streets is surely a cause of worry for the department.