Friday, November 21, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
(Varun - Dream India Team Volunteer based out of India has sent this wonderful blog on the eve of the campaign)
Pundit Nehru’s legacy
Some people die and just fade away, some people leave behind a legacy that lives on and on. Pundit Nehru belongs to the latter category. He loved children so much that his birthday, November 14th, is celebrated as Children’s Day in India every year. In every child, he envisioned a bright and zestful file that will carry the nation on towards the path of glory. He was a passionate advocate of compulsory primary education for all children and also launched initiatives like free food and milk in schools so that the problem of malnutrition can be tackled.
The battles of this great visionary did not go waste as many of the above schemes are being implemented in India right now and there has been a huge improvement in the standard of education that poor children are receiving today. Mid-day meal schemes are hugely popular and Sarva Shiksha Abyhaan (SSA – meaning ‘Education for all’) is creating a huge impact across the nation. I have personally experienced school officials admitting poor unschooled children even during the middle of an academic year, thereby proving their commitment to the cause.
Child begging – The methods and effects
But despite all these positive developments, there are still grey areas in the system. There are still areas where political will is lacking and children are left the ultimate sufferers. The country is developing, people’s incomes are rising by the day and people across the country are racing with each other in order to earn more, lead better lives. The neglect of rural areas by the government is rapidly causing extreme migratory tendencies that see literally thousands of people pour into our metropolitan cities with the hope of seeing a better lifestyle by earning more money.
Well, the thought per se is good and reflects the confidence and enterprise of those who migrate. But what these people do not realize is that this is a double-edged sword and can cut both ways. Most of those moving into cities fall again into the grasp of poverty, and lose any kind of self respect whatsoever. Under such conditions – in a new city, with meager-paying jobs, without even a proper home – people are forced to accept whatever means of income that come their way and one evil way of earning that is widely practiced is by encouraging their children to beg!
Child begging has been a commonly adopted practice in many parts of India for a very long time. Outside temples, at traffic intersections, in open spaces like parks and beaches, places of entertainment and many more such places. Kids are taught how to talk in a pitiful tone and also at times to grab hold of body parts of people in order to create sympathy. You will quite easily experience a child grabbing your leg or arm while travelling in a train, patting at its stomach to indicate lack of good, and asking for money or food. In fact many a time, the family lets the child go early in the morning so that he or she can beg for food and finish off breakfast.
The causes are many. One cannot pinpoint at just a few reasons for this evil prevailing in India. Lack of Political will is topmost, according to me. There are a lot of laws that prevent the use of children as beggars but sadly none of them are being enforced. Also rural development is not being given as much priority as it should be, so sets off migration and leads to child begging.
One very inadvertent, though important way in which we, the general public, participate in promoting this habit is by not denying alms to these children. It is simple logic, without supply there would be no demand and similarly, without the general public entertaining these youth, there would be no chance for them to continue this profession. How many times would we have fallen for the innocent face that peers through the car windows or for the ever popular sight of a girl carrying a baby on her hips and begging for food for both herself and the child.
It is surprising how many well-to-do people land in cars outside the Sai Mandir in Kandivali, Mumbai and hand out food and drinks to children there. They do not realize the effects of what they do, apart from the stupid notion that they would go to heaven if they 'help' poor children in such a way. But the repercussions of their act are devastating. Children do not attend school properly as they will miss out on the sweet meats on offer. Parents are content in making their children be part of the big queue to beg for food.
What this habit effectively does is, apart from providing short term benefits like some money for the family and some leftover food for the kids, wean the kids away from school and severely limit its capabilities to think creatively or plan for its future. He or she becomes accustomed to begging and hence would not be interested in doing anything else. The very concept of ‘working’ for a living is lost upon the child. And that can be a very dangerous thing, considering that India is one of the few young nations in the world, with a low average age of population.
An empty mind is a devil's workshop and this is precisely what happens when children are left idle and to beg. One things leads to another and a few bad habits picked up here and there while loitering around with friends, lead on to gambling, to drinking alcohol and smoking and even to the consumption of narcotics. These are sure shot ways to disaster.
Tackling the menace
The government can obviously do a lot but at the same time if we, the general public, refrain from encouraging these children, then there would be a considerable change. There are immeasurable ways to help a poor child otherwise. Dream India volunteers have interacted with a group of such children in Mumbai, and even started a center in Kandivali for them. You can read about the efforts in this blog (http://varun-dreamindia.blogspot.com/2007/06/games-children-play.html ) and also subsequent blog posts in the same site.
Instead of giving a rupee to a kid, call him aside, talk to him, and try to thrust the importance of education or other activities like playing, on him or his parents. Or if the situation seems to be in a real bad state, talk to a local NGO that deals with child education of street children. There are hundreds of such NGOs in India and hence should not be difficult to find.
Or play some interesting yet informative game with him. Talk about National bird or animal etc and hold his attention for some time. That time that you spend with him itself would go a long way in his life.
DI has launched a mega initiative in Pune called the Anti child begging campaign (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s46zYnFS-WM). Started as road side campaigns last year, it has now grown into a mini movement in the city and we have conducted many more such camps since then. We invite people to visit our stalls and talk to them about the various ways in which we can stop child begging in the country, and also take in their ideas and views about the same.
And during Children's Day this year, we will step up pace on our campaign and launch stalls in five place in Pune. This mega drive will be supported by Radio Mirchi, CDAC, and other media as well. We hope that people's attitudes towards a child begging, change and that we all play a more proactive role in providing for today's youth, tomorrow's leaders!
To Make a “Better India”, rather than a “Beggar India”
Children, Angels of GOD,
Children, Hopes of Parents,
Children, Expectations invested in by the Nation,
Children, living beings full of innocence and openness towards life!
A civilized nation. A nation having the world’s richest cultural heritage. But where do we
stand on the front of nurturing India’s future, children? Would you like to know the reality? Let’s go to some place in Pune where people abound; near traffic lights, outside multiplexes, eateries, banquet halls or religious places. Wait there for about ten minutes, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise if a child, face full of emotion, insecurity and fear, with a dirty, outstretched hand reaches out to you, or tugs at your clothes. You will ignore him/her for a while, but eventually, you *will* put a coin in that hand just to escape from the situation you were trapped in, if not anything else. Let’s look at society in general. Do we ever think of what the result of this thoughtless act of ours would be? Will the child be able to call itself a responsible and independent human, ever in the future? Sadly, the answer is a big NO. Rather than solving the problem, we are encouraging many other negatives like false acting, emotional blackmail, addictions, and God alone knows what. Incidences like these will handicap these children in that they will only be good enough for begging and nothing else. And they will have kids, and the cycle will continue. Vicious.
Behind all such things are unseen forces driving the boat. Unfortunately, such rackets are fueled by that very coin which we give as alms. So aren’t we responsible for spoiling the future of these children and in turn, INDIA’s future too? The software hub of the world, the epitome of cultural refinement - is this what we are going to showcase to the world when we are hosting international events like the Common Wealth Youth Games(CYG)? This needs to stop somewhere. But who will bell the cat?
“Excuse me, but I cannot take this up”,” I have got my promises to fulfill”,” I have my priorities”,” My job and assignments are more important than this”, “I’ve got to go a long way in life”, “Isn’t it easier to just pay up and go away?”, “Why should I? There are other people out there, let them do it, I’m not going to waste my time for this.”Easy, isn’t it? To shirk our responsibilities, run away from them. We must realize that if we can’t do anything for their betterment, then we have absolutely no right to make their lives worse. So why just kids who beg? Why not target all beggars? People who’ve spent their entire life begging, won’t accept an alternative. However, with kids, we have hope. They can be led to a tomorrow with opportunity, with education, self-respect – to Independence.
So, Wake Up, INDIA. WAKE UP!!!
We are the INDIANS who can make a better INDIA, rather than a “Beggar INDIA”.
Where every child will have his basic needs (food, clothing and shelter) secured.
Where every child will go to school and will have his educational needs satisfied.
Where every child is God’s cherubic angel,
Where every child will be the pride of his/her parents – of the nation too.
Simply put, to make it happen, we just need to say NO to child begging. We need to stop giving alms to such children. Let him fall, let her cry. Let them struggle and find out for themselves, the value of that coin which we give them. There are government run initiatives for underprivileged kids. There are NGOs that are providing education and opportunities to homeless kids, street kids, and the like. Support them – give them your time, resources, dedication - your commitment. Education is their only savior. Only by educating them, can we make them truly independent. It’s the survival of the fittest. Let’s not cripple them with our coins.
A city-wide movement called the “Anti Child Begging Campaign” has already been launched, to support organizations working in this sphere. SAMIDHA and DREAM INDIA have put together their ‘Samidhas’ of efforts to make it a ‘Dream India’.
Spread the word around. The future of India is calling. Are you ready to do your bit?
-An open initiative in association with SAMIDHA and DREAM INDIA.
Alone I can fight but together we will beat!
(You can send us your comments to: ACBC2008@googlegroups.com)
By (Dattu Ekhande)