Beggars beg as last resort: Activists
Social activists upheld minister of social justice Mukul Wasnik’s suggestion of a centrally supported initiative for rehabilitation of beggars and form a database to map the number of beggars across India.
According to government estimates there are over 58,000 beggars in Delhi. However, rights group believe that the number is as high as one to two lakh. In a meeting held on the issue of beggary, organised by the social justice ministry, Wasnik had said he has sent letters to state chief ministers asking them to provide data on the incidence of begging in their states. And also the existing legal and administrative framework which they follow.
The meeting was attended by senior government representatives, academic institutions and NGOs working in the area. Many participants argued for drafting a model legislation which states could possibly adopt as per their circumstances.
They demanded that the proposed legislation should stress on prevention and rehabilitation. But it should curb the evil of what they call an “organised begging racket” especially in cities and places of religious importance.
Delhi’s social welfare minister Kiran Walia has been talking about amendment of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 to ensure that this population is not “neglected and tortured”.
“We have been saying this since the beginning that we need to do away with this law which is being misused and provide rehabilitation, especially to children,” said Dr Amod Kumar, head of community initiatives, St Stephen’s Hospital.
An activist who works in beggar homes said most homes are like prisons which do
not provide any form of training or rehabilitation programme to beggars despite such provision under the Act.
“There has not been a single case of rehabilitation so far,” he said. Indu Prakash from Indo-Global Social Service Society believes that this rehabilitation programme will not be a success till the beggary Act is not repealed. “It is a draconian act which needs to be done away with and then reforms should be introduced,” he said.
“Also, imparting market-linked livelihood skills is equally important for this population who were refer to as distressed people,” he added.
According to him, people beg as a last resort — and not by choice — when there are no other means of livelihood available.
“There are no mafias or criminal gangs operating the beggary racket as such. This concept suits Bollywood more than the real picture. We questioned several distressed people on the streets, who said they were left with no other option but to beg,” he added.