PM Narendra Modi had applauded the initiative in his ‘Man-ki-baat’ programme on Sunday. ‘Save Child Beggar‘ was founded in May 2016 by Vivek Manjunath, Shahid Nizam, Sahil Kaushar, Jay Kumar Singh, Kundan Kanskar, Shubham Singh, Amritansh Kumar and Santosh Kumar.What started with just five kids at a park above Palika Bazar has expanded to 12 centres in Delhi-NCR and another 12 in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.The group takes help of youth volunteers through a Facebook group which at present has 22,170 members.
Also, with help from local restaurants in Connaught Place, the children are fed leftover food.
They impart primary and secondary education and provide the required stationary. “Some of these children fall prey to wrong habits and addictions. Whenever we suspect a child is taking any drug, we take him to the doctor. In the past, we have sent around 30 students to drug rehabilitation centres. It’s a major issue as drug abuse can lead the kids pursue criminal activities,” says Nizam, one of the founding members.
“We try our best to encourage these kids learn a skill and work, instead of begging on the streets. If we don’t make them educated or learn a skill, Indian streets will always have beggars,” said Vivek Manjunath who coined the idea.
“After coming from Karnataka, I felt sad when I saw so many homeless kids in Delhi. I felt we should do something to make these kids literate,” he recalls. He adds that the group initially did a survey in which they found 30,000 kids who don’t have access to schools in Delhi. After the survey, they decided to make this a countrywide initiative. The classes are mostly held in the evening, usually for two hours from 4pm. Apart from textbook coaching, we also teach them painting and computer knowhow.
The students get stationary items like paper and pencils apart from refreshments. “We first try to make friendship with the kids as no kid will instantly come to us to study. So to gain confidence, we first become friendly. After the child starts trusting us, we ask them to join our classes,” said Shubham Singh.
“We have placed some of our students in local restaurants and showrooms. Our main motive is that the kids work and earn their livelihood honorably than roam around streets begging,” said Amritansh Kumar.
Most of such street children in Delhi NCR region come from poorer districts of Bihar and UP. They are either orphans or children born to beggars. “Around 40% of the kids are from Agra district,” said a founder. After the group generated visibility, it has got a lot of helping hands. However, they still struggle to get enough funds for the operations and are not even able to run their website properly.
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Nizam alleges that the police, in order to remove beggars from Connaught Place, are not letting them run evening classes as usual these days. “As cops are not supportive of beggars in Connaught Place area, we are shifting our classes to Geeta Colony and Laxmi Nagar,” he said. The founders are elated on finding that PM Modi had cited their work. “We couldn’t believe initially that the prime minister of 1.3 billion people acknowledged our work. We thank him earnestly,” said the founders.
“According to our survey, there are 25-30 kids in every neighbourhood from very needy backgrounds who don’t receive any education and are forced to beg. We estimate that we need 100 schools to place all of them. If everything goes well, we hope to start the schools soon,” added Nizam.