Forced begging and extreme poverty

KARACHI: On the streets of Karachi, children are engaged in selling flowers, toys, cold water, cleaning car windows in order to earn a few rupees for survival, and support to their families. Among these are many children who are being forced to beg on the streets of Karachi, sometimes by their own families, and often by a mafia. Forced begging is one of the worst forms of child labour in Pakistan, which is a major issue especially in developing countries. The only time police can take action against such elements is when someone lodges a complaint. Once a child is recovered by the police in such operations, they then search for the child’s parents. In case a child has no kin, police handover the child to a shelter home, explained a senior police officer. In 2012, as many as 2,317 children disappeared from Karachi, of which only 16 percent were rescued according to Roshni Helpline, a Karachi-based civil society group. This year, in the month of July, on the complaint of Ramesh, father of a missing child, Docks police conducted targeted raids in Gizri and busted a gang of kidnappers, and claimed to have rescued 11 under-aged children who were being forced to beg. The children, aged between eight and 15 years, belonged to different regions of the country and were mostly kidnapped from Punjab and Sindh. According to police officials, the children were kidnapped specifically for the purpose of forced begging. In Pakistan alone, more than 10 million children are engaged in child labour and reports say that 300,000 of the total are in Sindh. As per a UN estimate from 2005, there are 1.2 million to 1.5 million children on Pakistan’s streets, though the activists claim the numbers are rising. It is a dire time to think about street children, because they are the ones who in their later years often get involved in criminal activities and other social evils. Street children in Karachi are aged between six and 15 years, most of them are often beggars and also forced into sex work due to many reasons. They mainly belong to large families who live below the ultra poverty level, and since their parents are absolutely uneducated and unskilled, they are unable to earn sufficient amounts to raise their children. Often these parents do not enrol their children in schools. In order to put all these iniquities, and put all children in schools, authorities need to reach to every section of society and make sure each and every child has access to education and a safe environment. Despite that there are hundreds of laws and institutions working on this issue, none are able to achieve the desired results. According to experts, the best approach to solve this issue and turn these young souls into productive members of society is a partnership between the civil society, NGOs, government and most importantly the media. It can play its role by spreading public service messages through online broadcasting. saud khan

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