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Indian police arrest orphanage owner forcing children to beg

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Police have arrested the owner of an orphanage for forcing children in his care to beg on the streets, busting another organised begging ring in an industry controlled by human traffickers, an officer said on Friday.

Fourteen children were rescued following the arrest of Mallipeddi James on Thursday as he dropped off children to beg at a traffic junction in Hyderabad.

The children had been left in his care at the Brahmaputra Orphanage in Ameenpur village in southern state of Telangana.

“We caught him red handed, after he had dropped off four children at a traffic signal near the Gachibowli IT hub,” said sub inspector Chinthakayala Venkatesh.

“The children, aged between 7 and 14 years, had three money collection boxes and told us that they were being asked to beg everyday in different parts of the city. He was supposed to care for them and educate them.”

Experts estimate that at least 300,000 children across India are drugged, beaten and forced to beg every day, in what has become a multi million rupee industry run by human trafficking cartels.

Rights groups have long complained that children’s homes in India are poorly regulated, not inspected often enough, and that many privately-run institutions are able to operate without a licence leaving thousands of children vulnerable to abuse.

Many children in these homes are not orphans but placed in institutional care by parents too poor to feed, clothe and shelter them.

“The orphanage was illegal and had no licence to run,” S.B. Balaraju of the State Commission for protection of child rights told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We are very concerned about such homes, which are often hubs for children being trafficked and abused.”

In the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, a crackdown by authorities against mismanaged homes has seen the closure of over 500 in the last five years.

“The begging is a manifestation of all that is wrong in these homes. I am convinced that over 85 per cent of the homes don’t need to exist and are just fronts for other activities,” said Vidya Reddy of non-profit TULIR-Centre for the Prevention and Healing Child Sexual Abuse.

“Not all children need to be in these homes. Instead more community based initiatives need to be looked at.”