Organised racket suspected behind child begging and labour in Ernakulam

Drive to be launched to rescue children from streets and restore their rights

A drive by a joint task force comprising multiple agencies is set to get under way in Ernakulam district for identifying and rescuing children from the streets and restoring their rights.

The task force will have representatives from the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU), Childline, Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Labour and police departments, and the Centre of Migration and Inclusive Development (CMID), an NGO. The drive proposes to target mainly three category of children – those wandering alone in the streets, those tagged along with their parents either engaged in trade or begging, and those wandering during daytime and returning home in the night.

The children will be rescued and either rehabilitated or repatriated, since most of them are from underprivileged sections from States like Rajasthan. Their details will be entered in the portal ‘Children in Street Situations’ maintained by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

“The initiative is part of a study conducted by the NCPCR in four States, including Kerala. It smoothly dovetails with DCPU’s already running project Sarana Balyam for rescuing children from begging and labour,” said Sini K.S., District Child Protection Officer.

However, CMID dubs child begging and labour as part of a larger problem of organised crime. “This root cause should be addressed, and priority should be given to busting perpetrators. Women and children are engaged strategically to benefit from public sympathy. They are deployed at various points in the district, and their accommodations are constantly shifted,” said Benoy Peter, executive director, CMID. The rescue of children also causes their traumatic separation from their mothers.

However, the CWC observes that there is no guarantee that adults claiming to be parents of rescued children are even actually related. “When these children are produced before the CWC, they [adults] turn up and create much drama to get the children restored. They are often accompanied by a lawyer and produce all supporting documents to establish their parenthood. These documents could be fake, but verifying their veracity with the CWCs in their respective States poses practical difficulties, leaving us with no option but to send the children with them,” said Bitty Jiseph, CWC Chairperson.

Arun Thankachan, district coordinator of Childline, reiterated that an organised racket is involved in the exploitation of children. “There was this particular instance when we rescued a child from the street. He waved a bundle of ₹100 notes at our staff to let him go. The public should realise that by buying stuff from them or giving alms they are only worsening the situation of those children whom they want to help,” he said.

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