14 Nov 2017 06:17am IST
Hundreds of children found along Bardez beach belt selling items and begging; Supposed parents are close by to monitor; NGO Scan India rescued 96 kids in 2016 and lodged them in Apna Ghar from where the people claiming to be their parents have claimed them after identifying themselves
CALANGUTE: Some of them are three, some older. They should be playing on the sand building sandcastles or going into the water on the shoulders of their dads. But on the sands of the northern coastal belt, they are in “business”. Selling bangles and toys and other stuff
Tourism has been the backbone of Goa’s economy, but the industry has brought along various ills to the peaceful State like drugs and prostitution. Of late, another menace has raised its ugly head along the State’s coastline, which could well be a shadow of child trafficking.
If one takes a stroll along the Calangute-Candolim and Baga beaches one will see hundreds of migrant children selling bangles, nuts, fruits, ice-creams and many others begging.
Shocking but true, girls and boys aged as young as 3 to 15 years are in this “dangerous” business at the age
when they should be studying in school.
Herald, along with police personnel and NGO SCAN India decided to visit the beaches and get to know the ground reality and what arose was startling.
The children Herald spoke to were well conversant with Hindi, perhaps trained in the language, to answer any query. A chat with few of the young girls revealed that they were selling the items at the behest of their supposed parents and relatives, who sit somewhere close by monitoring their movements.
Asked why they don’t go to school, a nine-year-old girl from Karnataka said, “I have four sisters and two brothers they are in the native place and I am here with my aunty. I want to go to school but…,” she ran away saying her relative is calling.
Another brother-sister duo, said they are in Goa with their parents. “Our parents ask us to sell this,” said the boy and about the school he said, “Nobody takes us to school.”
Calangute MLA Michael Lobo, who is also the Dy Speaker, recently held a meeting with panchayat members, NGOs, Police and other authorities to get rid of this problem. Lobo said, “It is not a small problem, we could be waiting for a major tragedy to happen which could tarnish the name of the State.”
He continued, “Most of the tourists on the beach are drunk in the evening and imagine if one of them lures a girl with money and does something… maybe rape her… what will happen.”
He says the problem has to be addressed now and added, “I am doing my bit, we will give an office to NGOs in Calangute so that they can focus here better.”
Neville Proenca, social worker, said he has been working on this for quite some time but somehow instead of reducing, the number of children is increasing. “These kids are brought here by their relatives and friends on contract and put on the job of selling some items or begging,” he said, adding it is time the authorities see this as a major threat to Goa tourism.
Calangute Police Inspector Jivba Dalvi said he has not come across any racket as such. “I have not come across anything like child trafficking or a big racket. But yes, this is illegal and we have rescued many children but finally nothing comes out of it,” he says.
Dalvi says that by the time they rescue the kids and bring them to the police station to be lodged in Apna Ghar the ‘parents’ are at the police station with documents. “We cannot keep them after they are identified,” he said.
Harshal Mandrekar of NGO SCAN India says he has been working with police for many years and rescued many children. “These kids are brought from all over India – Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa etc. We try to rescue the kids and lodge them in Apna Ghar but the close relatives take them after producing documents,” he said.
According to statistics, the NGO rescued 96 kids in 2016 and lodged them in Apna Ghar from where the parents have claimed them after identifying themselves.