Herald: ‘Kid-vendors’ prowl Goan beaches
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‘Kid-vendors’ prowl Goan beaches

19 Nov 2017 05:06am IST

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19 Nov 2017 05:06am IST

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Tourism, undoubtedly, remains the backbone of Goa’s economy but the industry that has provided much is also fraught with piggybacked ills like drugs, prostitution and petty crime that scar the otherwise tranquil State. What is more, the 100-odd kilometer coastline, especially the northern belt, has over the recent past been in news for the malice of ‘shadowy-style’ of child trafficking. SURAJ NANDREKAR tiptoes around the beaches of North Goa to find out the modus operandi of these ‘kids-vendors,’ and what essentially lured them to this peaceful land of surf and sunshine

It is 7 pm, as Team Herald lands at the most popular beach in Goa, Calangute beach, also referred to as the queen of beaches and a must on the itinerary of both domestic and international tourists.

Being a weekend, thousands of tourists are seen busy strolling in the sands, enjoying the waves, chit-chatting, enjoying ice-creams and some frolicking close to the water. In the darkening twilight something catches the eye and on focusing it appears to be glowing radium from bangles and other items. There’s nothing unusual in the scene, but out reporters find a similar pattern and soon our team is surprised to learn that all with the glowing items are children. Yes, children! Seeming unescorted children, who seem to have been brought to Goa’s biggest beach for a specific purpose.  

A closer encounter revealed hundreds of children, selling different items like radium bangles, led lights, flowers, fruits, nuts, ice-creams etc, while some were also begging.

We knew of a recent trend that had been unfolding on our beaches and were aware of a shadowy kind of child trafficking that had raised its ugly head along Goa’s 100-odd kilometer coastline. It did not seem like child trafficking in the real sense, yet we could almost sniff ‘Shadow of Child Trafficking,’ knowing that all was not right.

Yes, unfortunately, this is a vivid reality on our beaches and if you happen to stroll along the beaches at Calangute, Candolim and Baga, you will be surprised to see hundreds of migrant children selling radium bangles, nuts, fruits, ice-creams and even haggling tourists for money.

Shockingly, girls and boys aged as young as 3 to 15 years, have been ‘discovered’ in this ‘dangerous’ business at the age when they should be studying in school.

What’s more, the children that Herald spoke to seemed well-trained in Hindi language and also to answer any query from strangers.

A chat with few of the young girls, revealed that they were selling the items at the behest of their parents and the relatives, who sit somewhere close by monitoring their movements.

Asked why they don’t go to school, a nine-year-old girl from Karnataka somberly said she had four sisters and two brothers in her native place and she was here with her aunt.

“I want to go to school but…,” the girl abruptly gets up and runs away, saying her relative was calling.

Another brother-sister duo, say they are here with their parents.

“Our parents ask us to sell this,” said the boy and about the school he says “nobody takes us in school”.

How much do you make per night? They replied, sometime Rs 1,000, but sometimes during peak season we make around Rs 3000 too.

Neville Proenca, social worker, says he has been working on this issue for quite some time but is sad that instead of reducing the number of children the problem keeps multiplying.

“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 high time the authorities see this as a major threat to Goa tourism.

Neville further revealed that the kids are ‘leased’ to different contractors for a meagre amount as less as Rs 2,000 per month.

Further inquiries also revealed that many of these girls are between 12 to 15 years and were vulnerable to ‘predators,’ bearing in mind the escalating crime amongst women in the country.

Herald spoke to a girl and asked her if she was not afraid that something wrong might happen to her. “Many a time police misbehave with us, but we call our parents who are close by,” she narrates, recounting similar incidents of harassment.

And when we asked what happens when no one was around, she quipped:  “We just run away.”

Goa has had its share of its image being tarnished, by reports of rape of foreigners, and the case of rape and death of fifteen-year-old Scarlett Keeling brought international disrepute. Another similar story or a case of rape of a child on Goa’s beach would send the wrong signal to domestic and international tourists and Goa tourism, which has weathered storms, may even be surrounded by clouds of doom. 

To get the perspective of their parents and relatives, Herald tried to speak to one of the two ladies, who were sitting close-by and monitoring the girls, but as the reporter approached them, the two simply got up and disappeared from the scene.

Finally we found someone who could talk. “I are forced to do these as I lost my husband last year and have three kids to look after and to survive we have to do something,” a women who did not want to be named said.

“Nobody gives me work and hence I have to ask my child to sell these items,” she adds with a tinge of remorse in her voice.

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