Navbharat Times and Maharashtra Times make children beg to seek cheap publicity

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Unmesh Gujarathi
Sprouts Exclusive

The Navbharat Times (NBT) which recently made children collect money through crowdfunding as part of its initiative to increase readership in the name of child welfare, has been issued a show cause notice by the dept of prevention of crime against Women and children which has called for the explanation.

The Navbharat Times ( NBT ) is a Hindi daily of the Times Group (Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd ( BCCL). The NBT carried a news report related to children in its Mumbai edition. The story published photos of children below 18 years collecting small donations for their future from the readers.

The campaign was run under the decorated title “ Help A Star”. It has been running for the last 07 years. As per its tradition, this year, the NBT consecutively carried news reports urging people to contribute to NBT by way of a cheque. The amount collected was to be given just to 15 children. However, the NBT indulged in big publicity with mega branding and the Apna Coop Bank was made a banking partner.

In a month-long campaign, the NBT involved the Industries Minister Uday Samant, former Minister Vinod Tawade (a man accused of carrying a bogus educational degree) and others and patted its own back. Besides, junior artists like Sakib Salim and a few actresses were involved. Even the image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was misused by the Times group.

Embezzlement of money suspected

Since such initiatives provide publicity in multiples compared to the amount donated, the elected representatives, ministers and industrialists participate without fail in such campaigns. The NBT had set up collection centers at several places in Mumbai. There is a possibility of irregularities in the money collected from this initiative, many citizens who spoke to Sprouts alleged.

Maharashtra Times was used to collect money from Marathi readers

While Hindi-speaking (UPites) children participated in the NBT’s campaign, the Marathi-speaking children were engaged in the campaign organised by its sister publication Maharashtra Times. This proved that the Times Group sought to make children beg and pocket the money collected and increase its own readership.

Private Organisation Not Permitted To Use Photo Of Child For Crowdfunding

The notice sent by the department of prevention of crime against Women and children to NBT states that the newspaper’s initiative is in violation of section 2(8) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and it falls under the category of begging. As such it is an offense under section 76 of the said act.

The notice also states that any person who uses a child to beg or compels it to beg can be imprisoned for 5 years with a fine of Rs one lakh.

Despite several attempts to get a reaction about these alleged irregularities, the NBT Editor Sundar Chandra Thakur could not be reached.

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