Downtown dawdle

The lives of around 1,500 street children in Kathmandu are riddled with irony. On a casual glance, they look a sorry lot, mired for a life of perpetual struggle and poverty. But, in reality, they are engaged in one of the most lucrative businesses in Kathmandu: Begging. An experienced, underage beggar at Thamel can earn as much as Rs 1,500 daily, while a minor bags Rs 500 on average. Be that as it may, the street kids continue to live a miserable life. Most of their earnings are frittered away at procuring glue, cigarettes and foodstuff. Older street boys and drug addicts wrest away of what little remains.

There seems to be no concrete mechanism in place to help these children lead a happy and dignified life. Some NGOs working for kids are partly to be blamed for this state of affair. Most street children seek the help of these organisations only when they are in a dire need. And as soon as their needs are met, they are left on their own. Unsurprisingly, therefore, most return to their old ways. All these do-gooder agencies should be careful that instead of helping the kids, they are not damaging their cause in the long run. There is an urgent need for a mass awareness drive, especially aimed at foreign tourists, urging people not to give away big sums to the kids, thereby providing them with an added incentive to continue begging. It is also important that they know that right kind of help is available if they stay away from the streets. For this, both the government and the NGOs should work hand in glove for the rehabilitation, vocational training and education of these errant kids.