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A young girl was victim of the ubiquitous hit and run syndrome that is a familiar occurrence in cities. Most get reported. Some make front page if a ‘celebrity’ or ‘privileged’ is driving a ‘swanky’ car!

There are some hit and run cases that never make any page. Most often only those close to the victim are the sole witnesses of the ghastly act. Last week a young girl was hit by a car as she crossed the road after finishing class. She was a student of the pilot project run by Project Why for the children of beggars at the Kalkaji Temple. Little S was in many ways the one who by her sheer tenacity compelled us to begin classes. She is alive but her leg has been crushed badly. She is in hospital and has been operated upon.

Her mother A delivered a child just six days before the accident happened yet she was the one who had to ferry the child in an auto to the trauma centre. The only ‘proof’ of the accident is the car number hurriedly copied by a kind stall owner. A is also the one who has been banging on the doors of justice but has not been heard. The police are not interested in a young beggar child and her beggar family. The father remains at the little girl’s side keeping silent vigil. The mother looks after the newborn and the other children and before any brow lifts in despair, A had her tubes tied at a camp. The baby came after the surgery.

At present A lives in the women shelter where she delivered the baby. Habitually the family lives on the ‘street’. Most beggars sleep where they beg.

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If you look at the picture above carefully you will see bags and bundles. These are  the packed up homes of the very beggars you see. After working hours, they set up house. If you were to pass by early morning you would see them brushing their teeth and sending kids off to school.

This is A and S’s home. This is where S would come back to recover from surgery. Most probably she will be taken to the women’s night shelter but then kept away from her father, the one who sat with her throughout the hospital ordeal. When will she be able to return to school is a question we all ask. We will fight day and night to ensure she returns to school as early as possible.

Come to think of it, in the given circumstances, a maimed child is likely to earn more ‘begging’. And is it not the ‘family’ business; so all within the new child labour laws.

S is just one of umpteen children who beg. In some cases like Arati’s or many of the women in the night shelter, they did not chose to beg but were driven to it by a series of unfortunate circumstances. In some cases they lost their homes as metro stations or malls needed space. Not having all the documents required they were not ‘eligible’ for any alternative scheme so found whatever alternative they could and began their descent to hell. Begging was the last resort. In some cases women are abandoned by husbands and left to seek shelter and beg for survival. That was the story of many of the women in the shelter some having just had babies. They eat at the numerous religious feedings. On days when there is no free food, they beg just enough to buy a meal. Their future seems hopeless.

And yet amidst all this squalor you meet R. R is an imposing and confident woman who is ‘in charge’ of the women’s shelter. She is literate and runs a small tea stall just outside the shelter. She recounts how she too was a beggar many years ago and would have remained one had she not been helped by an organisation that sent her to a residential school where she got educated. She came back and married another vendor and has one son she is determined to educate. She has never looked back.

Listening to her story gives hope, hope for these children who study for a few hours with us. Maybe some of them will follow R’s steps.

We at Project Why will walk the extra mile to ensure that.

S was the victim of a hit and run. We do hope to trace the driver and ensure that the family is helped.

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This is Arati with one of her kids!

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