Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 17:
Odisha’s capital city may be fast moving up the economic ladder due to rapid urbanisation, but the social indicators are still grim as scores of child beggars are ubiquitous at busy marketplaces. To utter surprise, they lay siege to commuters until they give in to their demands.
The child beggars are omnipresent and are seen all over the city: in front of malls, the railway station and booking counters, movie complexes, parks and restaurants… you name it.
The capital city’s busy railway station and the booking offices are a major destination of these beggars. Semi-nude kids begging with a toddler pretending to be asleep in their lap to gain sympathy is becoming a common sight and commuters are seen trying to dodge them as much as they could.
The reason: child beggars lay siege to the commuters clutching at their legs until they shell out a Rs 10 currency.
This reporters saw a student get trapped in this apparently well-rehearshed routine yesterday and was left with no option but to give in to the minor’s demand. The girl loosened the grip only after receiving the money.
“I had come to the railway station to book tickets for New Delhi. I saw a few child beggars asking for money to commuters. While I was leaving the counter with the ticket and the change the ticketing staff had returned me, one of them approached me and asked for money. When I refused to give, she suddenly clutched my legs tightly and said she won’t leave my legs until I pay Rs 10 to her. I had to shell out the money to get rid of the embarrassment,” Satyajit Patnaik said.
Having won his battle of attrition, the child immediately rushed to a nearby eatery and bought some Bara and Piazi (popular fried snacks in Odisha) for her parents who were sleeping in the railway station precincts. They divided the snacks among themselves, devoured the stuff together before the child left in search of his next ‘prey’.
This was not a stray case of the whole family being involved in the trade. An overwhelming majority of these minors found begging in the temple city are pushed into the task by their parents.
As per the 2011 census data, nearly 17,965 kids below the age of 14 in the state beg for a living. Over 40 child beggars are seen around the city railway station here ‘begging’ to earn their living.
Civil society members say that they are deprived of their fundamental Right to Education (RTE). They should be enrolled in schools to avail facilities offered by the government. Besides, the minors need to be rehabilitated and brought into the mainstream.
“As long as the social welfare schemes are not implemented properly and the mindset of their parents’ does not change, child begging and other social evils would continue to prevail in the society,” opined a social activist.