Heart-wrenching tale of a TN boy forced to beg to pay for a bribe

A photo of him begging on the bus went viral.
Heart-wrenching tale of a TN boy forced to beg to pay for a bribe
Heart-wrenching tale of a TN boy forced to beg to pay for a bribe

In the village of Koonathur, 15-year-old Ajith makes his way through an MTC bus, clutching a broken piece of a pot. Waving it at passengers, the coins jingle as he earns the day’s alms.

When he is not aboard a bus, he sits in front of a banner written in Tamil.

The banner reads – “I am in no position to repay the money borrowed for my father's last rites. I have been asked to pay Rs. 3,000 as bribe to the administration to get the Rs 12,500 that my family is entitled to. Please help.” 

His father, Kolanji, had died last year from kidney failure and had left behind a mountain of debt from his eldest daughter’s marriage. Under the farmers’ social security scheme, Kolanji’s kin is entitled to Rs 12,500. The cheque was made out in his mother’s name, who was working as a labourer in Mumbai and therefore could not come to the village. 

“I walked into the office with my uncle and asked the Village Administrative Officer for the entitled money. He asked me for a bribe of Rs 3000 openly. I said I could not pay it. I have no money, no home, nothing,” Ajith said, speaking to TNM. 

Before he came to the village to ask for his money, Ajith was eking out a living in Mumbai with his mother at a mechanic repair shop.

He lost his job because of a raid by officials who caught minors working at the shop. He decided to come back home to ask for the money he was entitled to after his father’s death. 

Shortly after a photo of his begging on the bus went viral, the VAO was relieved from his post pending an inquiry.

Ajith, however, claims the officials have only provided lip service. “I have not gotten the money. I was threatened by the police saying, “You have brought ill repute to the government. We will not leave you or your family alone. Why did you have to go around and make a big fuss and cause the VAO himself to leave? Don’t you have any shame? My mother says she doesn’t want the money and will not come back to the village. She fears a threat to my life and is asking me to come back to Mumbai,” he said.


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