It’s the Season for Begging: as Promoted by Radio

Christmas is the season for begging; at least it appears to be so in Sri Lanka if what one hears on radio stations is to be believed. It has already started with one radio station putting outs advertisements of children asking for this or that this Christmas.

“I am (name of child) I am three years old. I want a Teddy Bear,” is one plaintive call by a child. They can barely speak. It seems as though some are reading off a paper as there are many stops as if the children are unfamiliar with the language and are therefore reading it off a paper, probably for the first time. None of the begging by the children appears natural or spontaneous. Clearly, the radio station has done much to coach the children to beg.

Why the authorities don’t step in to stop this violation of children’s rights is most surprising. And it is a violation of a child’s rights in its most disgusting aspect. Begging has been banned on the streets. A recent law was enacted to prevent begging. But it seems that begging on the airwaves has been overlooked.

If I recall, this trend of asking children to beg for gifts started several years ago with radio stations getting children from Children’s Homes to beg for gifts at Christmas. Children were put on air. Listeners heard about this or that plight faced by kids of various ages; how they didn’t have school books, clothes, shoes, toys, books etc. The list went on and then the kids began asking listeners for the items they didn’t have. “I want, I want, I want,” went the cry by many children from November through December.

It has started again with one of the radio stations. At least I know it’s started with one because I’ve been hearing it for the past few days now. There are probably more children begging on behalf of their respective Children’s Homes on other radio stations as well.

What I can’t understand is why are children used to beg? Why can’t the radio stations that want to collect gifts to give children at Christmas, just ask the listeners to provide the gifts without dragging the children in? Isn’t it an insult to the children to force them to beg? These children, most of them orphans, need love and care from us all. They need to be treated as individuals with rights to live in dignity. What dignity is there in begging? Be it a teddy bear or a pair of shoes, who should these children beg for them? If the spirit of Christmas is in giving to others then shouldn’t people just give without forcing children, some of whom are too young to know the difference between right and wrong, to beg for things? What kinds of ideas are passed on to these children as a result?

Will they grow up thinking that it is alright to beg from others since that’s what they’ve been taught as young children by radio stations? Will they grow up to be a burden to society? Would the legislation passed to prevent begging be of no use after all? Importantly are the radio stations that promote begging willing to take responsibility for the children when they grow up and continue to beg?