By Trishala Sanyal, AKK New Law Academy.
Arpita Khan’s wedding was very much in news as she is the adopted sister of the famous Bollywood Thespian, Salman Khan. Little did people know about her being the biological daughter of a homeless beggar woman. She is just one of the lucky children among those thousands who are probably lying in some corner of a city. Whenever a BMW packed up with tourists is stuck in traffic jam a very heartbreaking scene witnessed i.e. an uneven steel bowl with two or three coins on the hands of a malnourished child. Although India is a leading developing nation after China, yet the menace of child beggary is at a very high rate. The land of saints, sages and leaders is bowed down with shame with the problem of child beggary. Israelmore Ayivor has rightly stated “Begging would have been the best option if God had given talents to only a selected few. Fortunately, He gave us all our compatible gifts respectively, so it is an offence to be a chronic beggar.” More than 60,000 children are extorted every year and are thrown in this wretched business of beggary. The body parts of these children are mutilated so that sympathy can be gained. As a reality show has high TRP rating for determining the success of the show, similarly a malnourished and a physically weak child is taken as a high TRP in the business of child beggary mafia’s.
Laws against child beggary in India
Child beggary is not only a direct attack on the right of the child but also it a direct attack on country being labelled as a developing nation. Every part of our legal system has stood against child beggary and has stated provisions related that. The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 195 has criminalized begging and has made provisions that are relevant to children between the age group of 0-18. Under this act a child is a boy who is below the age of 16 and a girl who is below the age of 18 years of age and people found guilty under this law is deemed to be punished for the minimum time period of 1 year and a maximum time gap of 3 years in Beggars Home. Moreover this act also stands against those who exploit the children to beg for alms for the similar time period in prison. Moreover the Clause (d) of the act has mentioned the definition of beggar as “having no visible means of subsistence and wandering about or remaining in any public place in such condition or manner (as) makes it likely that the person doing so exists by soliciting or receiving alms”.  However the definition proved to be a sham when the Delhi Government’s social welfare department conducted a survey stating most of the beggars to be “able-bodied and educated.” De facto the poor children are often witnessed in a highly packed road thus, The Traffic Police Notification (under the Motor Vehicles Act)  imposes a fine on motorists who give money to beggars. The Delhi Traffic Police has issued a direction to all motorists in the capital not to give alms to beggars at traffic lights, as this hinders traffic flow, sometimes even causing accidents. The fine for a first violation is Rs 150; the second time around it is Rs 300.
As the viscous circle of poverty goes on similarly the viscous circle of beggary is continued. Child beggary can be well compared with the contagious disease which is difficult to eradicate from its roots. Like every child has a dream to go school, the children asking for alms too has the same dream. Where with the 86th Amendment Act, 2002 Right to Education added in the constitution of India reflecting its faces in Section 21(A) making education free, compulsory and a fundamental right to all the children between the age group of six to fourteen years, there are many thousands of children who are not even aware of the role of education in one’s life. Giving a two rupee coin does not fulfil the necessity of a child but it encourages them to continue their usual fashion of living and giving them phony hopes to a good life. Moreover it also gives hope to the extortion mafia’s to expand their business. Child beggary in India not just halting the country’s progress towards the development but it also is acting as a parameter to determine the poverty, illiteracy and under development level of the nation.
Reflection of child beggary on the development of the nation
Child beggary as stated above has become a menace and a barrier in the development of the nation. The act is portraying a very negative picture in the world scenario. The words of Chris Hudges would portray the exact picture of India in the world scenario, “When I was 17, I went to India for six weeks and had what, at the time, was a very challenging trip. You walk down the street and you see lepers and beggars, and there were several of us, a group of Americans. I remember we were just trying to park one night somewhere and people were just sleeping in the parking lot.” Slumdog Millionaire was the movie which gained recognition in the Oscars, all the claps and applauses had to shed off looking at the situation of the children who were the victims of child beggary. Such movies winning should not be taken as adding feathers in India’s cap but they serve as the mirror image where our beautiful country is heading towards in the name of development.
Thus child beggary is still a burning problem in India and we must combat the evil which is spreading its wings day by day. Pandit Nehru had once said that children are the future of the nation and the future is at stake. We need to eradicate the social evil of child beggary and put up those laws and regulation who would prove to be fruitful for the future of our children and for our nation.