Yesterday while I was thinking about how inconvenient it is to travel in a crowded train in a hot and humid climate… a lady with 2 girls of age about 2 & 6 boarded the train and started chanting a bhajan. The younger girl looked ashen and was half asleep in lady’s arms and the elder one went from person to person begging and then when refused…even touching their feet..!!! By the time the girl came to me I got a call…and frankly…I was relieved that now I can pretend to be busy on call and that would definitely help me avoid the little one!
The caller ID displayed +91140xxxxxx…I could easily make out that this is some junk call…still…seeing the need of the hour I answered it…
Caller: Sir, I am Shweta calling from XYZ Organization. We are basically a NGO working for children welfare…
(If I was a person who read a lot of conspiracy stories…I would have been easily convinced that this is another conspiracy where “they” first send in little children in trains for begging and then call people in the train for donations!! Definitely a method with quite high efficiency!)
The NGO sure is doing some good work trying to help out children like these little girls…but very presence of these girls in front of my eyes depicted that the number of NGOs and the donations they get are quite few compared to the number of children who need such organizations! What about the rest of children? How are they supposed to survive?
The only options that such children have (according to me) are:
- Go to Being sent to some NGO or child care/ foster care homes
- Work in some place (tea stalls, small hotels, etc)
- Get involved in activities like stealing, pick pocketing, etc
Leave apart a few NGOs who maintain high standards of transparency, we are quite aware of (thanks to Indian media and movies) malpractices involved in various foster homes, the miserable living conditions at such places! Sometimes the torture is so much that the child considers living on the streets without any food as a better option and flees away from the foster home!
So much for the best option available…
Whenever we see any adult begging…who might look capable enough…Our reaction is “why can’t he work if he is alright!!” …but what about children? The Government of India has been proactive on this…and banned Child Labour! Various laws have been passed against people involved with child labour! Thus, getting a job is itself a difficult task for a small kid and moreover as it is illegal…one can easily imagine the working conditions in which a child will have to work if he/she gets a job somewhere!!
Coming to the third option…should we?? Offcourse…Afterall people who are well educated and mature are sometimes unable to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong…then how can a small child be expected to judge the difference between good and bad? They just follow some of the “elders” who pretend to (or maybe they actually do) understand them. The elders who don’t have to work hard…who get to eat whenever they are hungry..who have a place to stay and all sorts of new new things!! But we do know that for most of them…this would be a one way street!!
Fourth option?? This is where a child lands up after rejecting or being rejected by first three options!! But again…this is not we want for the children of our country!!
To think of it…all this time we have been talking about “survival options”, leave apart studies or anything else… and still apart from the first, all other options available to such unfortunate children are illegal! And as discussed…first option is not much of a choice after all!! So the options a kid has are either illegal or miserable!
Now if someone says… “That’s why we should support NGOs like CRY, etc” or “Only we citizens together can make this to change”…then I would like to ask..Is this a feasible and complete solution? Among us how many are aware or I guess it’s better to ask…how many are concerned about this problem!!?? And even if concerned…then how many are willing or able to donate?
Also…level of awareness about such issues among people can be judged by the fact that still in this country election results are more dependent on the alms being distributed by politicians just before election rather than the background of contesting person or party or even their manifesto!!!
At individual level: I can’t think of anything more than donating to NGO once in a while (with a limitation imposed by my pocket). At organization (NGO) level: There again is limitation of funds and the gap between children receiving help & requiring help is HUGE!!! At government level: Am not sure of what is being done or frankly… I don’t have much clue of what can be done!!
But again people in administrative positions are not bunch of illiterates but highly qualified IAS officers, sociologists, economists etc., who have much better understanding of such issues and I believe, they can definitely find some better options for these kids if they try to!
I hope…a few years later…I need not answer a junk call, just to avoid some little girl…