Over two weeks after the Bengaluru Police carried out a massive operation rescuing over 250 children in an attempt to crack down on a suspected trafficking racket and curb begging, the police has now handed over 200 of them to their biological parents after their identities were verified.
In a city wide operation called "Operation Smile", the city police rescued 263 children from beggars and sent them to "bala mandirs", which are run by the state government, for rehabilitation. However, there still remain suspicions about the parentage of 63 children and the police along with the Women and Child Welfare department, Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and representatives of NGOs are working towards establishing their identities.
Speaking to The News Minute, P Harishekaran, Additional Commissioner of Police (East), said the children have been produced before the CWC and they are trying to find whether the children were kidnapped, purchased, forced for sex or labour.
"A woman claimed that one of the children rescued was her nephew. In such cases too, we cannot hand over the child to the adult unless they provide documents or proof of them being related or both belonging to the same family," he said adding that it is an arduous task and the police have been travelling to several states to work on the project.
The government had allocated Rs 5.5 lakh for the project which had been further assigned to the seven divisions of city police.
"Begging is a crime, involving children is a 'maha' crime (bigger crime). It is against human dignity," Harishekaran says.
The next step in the process would be to conduct a DNA test on the children and if it does not match to that of those claiming to be their parents, a police case will be registered. There are several sections of the law that comes into force in such cases. Some of them include The Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary Act, relevant sections of the IPC and CrPC.
The verification process is likely to continue for another week. Since the police have labs of their own, they will not have to worry about additional funds, thus ensuring a quick wrap up of the project.
Though the operation did not face any resistance from the beggars and it was carried out smoothly, the top cop feels that "we need better inter and intra departmental coordination".