Prashant Kanojia, a social activist from Pune, recently received a rather disturbing (forwarded) message on WhatsApp. A lady with a child in her arms, who was suckling on a milk bottle, was begging in the streets of Koregaon Park in the city. When she was asked the child’s name—a rather common question that good samaritans ask before giving alms—she ran away.
This made the person very suspicious, and they immediately sent an alert to their contacts in Pune.
A concerned Kanojia put up a status on Facebook, complete with a picture of the lady with the child and a caption that said, “Forwarded-Saw this lady with a kid, begging for money in Koregaon Park Pune lane 6. Upon asking the name of the kid, she ran away.
If anyone recognises the kid, it might help. Hence posting the pic here.”
Kanojia has almost 5000 ‘friends’ on Facebook, so the status was shared over 1500 times on the social media platform. Every concerned Punekar was doing their bit to get to the bottom of this issue. So much so, that Sub Inspector Mohini Dongare initiated an inquiry about the lady.
Speaking to the Pune Mirror, she said, “The picture was being shared on social media. It was during this time that I was told that the girl was seen in Khadki bazaar area. So, I went there with my team and inquired. We detained her and got her to the police station. When we asked her about the child, she claimed that it belonged to her brother.”
As it turned out, the woman’s relative had given the child to her so she could use him for begging “since begging with children usually yields richer dividends.”
Both the parents and the woman were booked under the Prevention of Begging Act by the Pune police.
Impressed with the power of social media, Kanojia has now decided that he will harness it to help trafficked kids.
“I did not expect that the post I wrote on Facebook would be shared so much and lead to a conclusion like this,” he told PM, adding that “That made me realise the power of social media. Through our new initiative, we have formed a WhatsApp group on which pictures of such children will be shared. They will then be shared on other social media platforms. We will also be informing the cops about the posts we receive. Through all of this, we feel that the chances of tracing the kids or their parents will be high.”
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The social activist has also put some ground rules in place. Vinay Mundada, a member of the group who is also a social activist, told the publication, “We have specified that if a post is getting forwarded, first the members need to verify the details by calling the persons concerned. Whenever a child is found, we have decided to inform the concerned police station and then get custody of the child through the help of cops and then hand them over to [the] persons concerned.”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)