The forgotten children of India

Every morning as I drive to school I am greeted by a band of beggar kids at the red light next to a flyover. I normally carry some eatable or sweetmeat to give to them. Every morning as I see these children I am reminded of the forgotten biscuits and the fact that they were the children I wanted to help when I took my first faltering steps into the world of charity (for want of a better word). My little beggar girl is now all grown up. I still remember her innocent face that has now hardened. I just feel hopeless and helpless and all the work I have done till now pales at the sight of these innocent souls whose every right has been usurped.

This morning another article on the plight of these children made my blood run cold. According to a report by the Human Right Commission children are kidnapped for various purposes: working as cheap forced labour in illegal factories, establishments, homes, exploited as sex slaves or forced into the child porn industry, as camel jockeys in the Gulf countries, as child beggars in begging rackets, as victims of illegal adoptions or forced marriages, or perhaps, worse than any of these, as victims of organ trade and even grotesque cannibalism. The words made me gag. When had greed made us so callous and monstrous. Even animals did not fall so low. Children are meant to be celebrated. They should be loved, protected, cared for, pampered and sheltered. They depend on us adults for their every need and above all for their morrows. They are not meant to be used and abused for personal gratification. And yet this is done each and every day openly or surreptitiously. And we sit mute, pass by in our cars at best tossing a coin in the outstretched hand, never meeting the eyes of the child knocking at our car window.

We read news items on the plight of children: malnutrition deaths (one every 8 minute), encephalitis deaths, child labour, child abuse and so on without lifting a finger. Recently an article on the plight of children in Melghat was blood curdling. In 4 months 266 children died. What is worse is that there are fake NGOs run by politicians using the cause to line their pockets! Where are we going. Every child that dies is a national shame. There are many schemes but they remain schemes on paper. It is time we woke up to this reality. Something is terribly wrong and it is time civil society woke up and did something. True a child dying in a remote village does not move us. It should as it reflects the state of our society, our values and our collective conscience.