A 13-year-old girl from Dharavi who had been missing since March blew the lid off a begging racket on Monday after she spotted the woman who had abducted and forced her to become a beggar at the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Dongri. The girl had been taken to the CWC after the police rescued her a day earlier.
Janabai Pawar, a resident of Ramabai Colony, Ghatkopar (E), was arrested immediately. According to the girl, Janabai tonsured her, tortured her with cigarette burns, and forced her to collect Rs 150 per day by begging.
By sheer chance, Pavitra, the girl, was taken to CWC on Monday, while the committee was hearing a case regarding another boy who had been rescued from begging. The boy was accompanied by his mother. When Pavitra saw her, she identified her as Janabai.
Navnath Kamble from NGO Pratham, which was instrumental in carrying out the raid, two children, Dashrath Pawar, 10, and Rituja Pawar, 12, were rescued while found begging at Ghatkopar and taken to the children's home in Dongri.
"The hearing for Dashrath's case was scheduled on Monday. Pavitra too was brought before the CWC the same day. The moment she saw Dashrath's mother, she cried for help. CWC officials asked her why she was afraid, to which she said that the woman was Janabai, who had forced her into begging. She told the CWC that she was a resident of Dharavi and studied in class VIII of a school in that area," said Kamble.
"On March 22, Pavitra had gotten lost in Ghatkopar. Janabai spotted her and told her she would help her. She took Pavitra to her home, and with the help of a neighbour, forced her into begging," added Kamble.
Pavitra also told the CWC authorities that Janabai and her neighbour had forced many children into begging. "Her claims were verified by the Dharavi police. They also confirmed that her mother had indeed lodged a complaint with them after she went missing," said Kamble.
"We have arrested Janabai Pawar in a kidnapping case lodged by Pavitra's family and are investigating whether her involvement in the begging racket," said inspector Pandurang Patil of Dharavi police station.