While it may come as a shock that Thimphu is seeing an increasing number of beggars on its streets, what is especially worrisome is to see childldren begging. This reporter found three children, all siblings, who are often seen in town begging for food. They are shabbily dressed and look tired while begging for a packet of Koka noodles.
Tshering Dema, 9, the eldest among the three children, said as their mother was not feeling well they came themselves in town to get something to eat. “Our mother collects empty plastic bottles and cartons to sell, but today as our mother is sick at home.”
She said that she was once going to school in Paro but has had to drop out of school in middle of the year due to the lack of money. “My mom said she will send me to school next year and I can be like other children”, Tshering Dema said with a smile.
Khandom, the middle sister, is 7 years old. “We live in a hut above Saabji Bazaar, mother will be looking for us, but we want to eat Koka baldy. Someone gave us a packet of Koka earlier which we shared among ourselves and again felt like eating again,’ she added. “I am not going to school but I really want to go to school”, she said.
Tshering Dema manages to get Nu 50 in alms, but she refuses to share it with her siblings and runs away. Khandom and their youngest brother who is 3 years old start to cry after their sister.
The children’s grandmother, Phub Dem, 54, said that the mother is pregnant. She said, “The father of the elder two daughters left them long time back and he even didn’t give census to his daughters,” adding that she is still fighting for justice.
The grandmother said that it is difficult to run a family of six members without any income. Her husband, Sangay, 75, accompanies her while they collect cartons and bottles to sell. “I am working hard for the family, the current husband of my daughter left for his village, but he doesn’t earn even if he is here,” she said.
“I actually want my grandchild to go to school like others, but it is difficult firstly due to financial crises, and secondly they don’t have a census without which they can’t go to school,” she added.
The family’s monthly expenditure is Nu 2000 to Nu 3000, but they hardly get Nu 1000 selling bottles and cartons.
“We do not get proper meals to eat,” the grandmother said with eyes full of tears.