12 April, 2021

Saved from the beggar mafia, streetchildren get a new life in Kerala

Saved from the beggar mafia, streetchildren get a new life in Kerala
There are little children everywhere, some crawling, others playing, crying, laughing, singing. Looking at them, it’s difficult to believe they had all been abandoned—and were picked up from the streets or saved from a mentally ill mother. Some were even kidnap victims.

Like three-year-old Manjumatha, found lying on the road near Angamaly, her legs oozing pus from the acid burns inflicted by her beggar father. Some headload workers brought her to Jose Maveli’s Janaseva Sisu Bhavan off Aluva, near Kochi. Today she is a smart four-year-old smiling at you though she still hasn’t started talking, probably a hangover of her childhood trauma.

The children at Sisu Bhavan are all castaways or kidnap victims of the ‘beggar mafia’. Increasingly, all over Kerala there have been kidnaps of this sort with the victims put out to beg, sometimes even being maimed to attract sympathy, a la Manju. The children are given specific routes and target amounts, to be collected from buses, trains and pedestrians. They are also given cards to be distributed in train where they sing...

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