Drugged, battered and forced to beg

Drugged, battered and forced to beg

164 child beggars rescued; 8 men, 65 women held

Drugged, battered and forced to beg

The City police on Thursday rescued 164 children, 25 infants among them, who were forced into beggary. Many of these children had been given sedatives or were physically injured to draw public sympathy. Police also arrested at least 65 women and eight men who were with the children.

‘Operation Smile’ began at 10 am and went on till 4 pm at the City’s beggary hotspots. Police suspect that most of the people involved in beggary are not from Karnataka. “In many cases, the men would go to work on construction sites while the women and children would be engaged in beggary, as that is considered an easy option to make a fast buck,” said P Harishekaran, Additional Commissioner of Police (East).

“These children will be sent to state-run children’s home and some NGOs. The men and women will be questioned about why they resorted to beggary,” he added. “Our aim is to rescue child beggars and we will conduct the operation at frequent intervals to keep a check on the beggary menace.”

The operation was well-planned. Police personnel who were part of the operation were trained for three months during which they identified hotspots of beggary. Police in plain clothes and travelling by private vehicles carried out raids at beggary hotspots in malls, railway and bus stations, traffic signals, markets and commercial joints. There were a total of seven teams of ten members each. Most of the infants were found to have been administered sleep-inducing drugs or some syrup. Some of the children were also physically injured to make sure they get sympathy from the public, said Geetha Kulkarni, an inspector with the Central Crime Branch (CCB).

Police personnel chose to carry out the operation in plain clothes to avoid unnecessary attention and induce others involved in beggary. They carried food, milk and chocolates to attract the children, Kulkarni added.

Infants rented for Rs 500

Intelligence reports suggest that these infants may have been kidnapped or brought on rent for a mere Rs 300-500.

“We will question the men and women we have detained. If it emerges that these children do not belong to them or if they were kidnapped or brought on rent, we will book the men and women under the Human Trafficking Act, the Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary Act and the Juvenile Justice Act. We will even get DNA tests done to ascertain whether or not the infants belong to these men and women,” Harishekaran said.