Seeing child beggars on the street is a gut wrenching experience which I generally try not to think about and want to forget quickly, for each time I see them I wonder what these children have to go through and what their lives entail. Who are the people who have driven them to this? Has heartless society forgotten them? Aren’t children supposed to be in school, learning to prepare for the hard long life that lies ahead of them?
What makes it so disheartening is the fact that I feel totally helpless and to be truly honest, don’t really know what I should do when those tiny hands blackened with dirt and grime, open up to beseech whatever I can spare for them.
Looking at them I only see little children, just like all other children in this world. I see little faces filled with hope and dread at the same time…eyes full of the innocence which only the youngest of our species can dare to possess…minds which know no better and hearts which have yet not hardened, but are about to, in readiness to tackle the many vagaries of cruel life.
The conflict in my mind arises from what I have heard about the exploitation of these children. According to an NGO, there are at least 300,000 child beggars in India with some estimates being as high as one million children forced into beggary. These numbers represent the largest amount of child beggars in any country in the world. Child beggary is a blatant form of trafficking wherein the children are oppressed and coerced, often by force, against their will.
I have also read about many parents forcing their children into begging. But there are also people who employ children for begging after giving their parents some money. "An employed man and his wife lent their child to a woman beggar on an hourly basis,” was a recent news item in a newspaper.
Many organised gangs maim and sever body parts of children to gain sympathy to get more money. Most of us by giving them a rupee or two or even a tenner believe we have done enough but really what is it that we are doing for them? Are we helping them or encouraging the practice of begging? The dialogue goes on in my mind incessantly.
Then there are some of us who go out with loads of change so as not to refuse a single person who asks. Isn’t that what we are taught since childhood…to never say no the needy?
I wish I knew what the answer to all my questions is and that I could actually be able to do something meaningful for these poor souls. I wish I could give them everything I have, all my possessions, my love and my life…but all I do is look away and live my life as if nothing is wrong with the world.