Many have not heard of the rehabilitation centre

For Neeraj (name changed) begging has become a profession. He often begs near Sai Baba Temple at Ladyhill. “I have been begging here for five years. I get around Rs. 4,000 a month and send Rs. 1,000 to my parents who are in Shiggoan,” he said.

He is one of the many beggars in Mangalore. They are often sighted at Hampankatta, State Bank and Ladyhill. On any given day five to six beggars can be sighted at Sai Baba Temple. A regular visitor of the temple says she finds it irritating as “these people plead for alms. It is okay if it happens once in a while, but they are there all the while and it is very disturbing”.

What bothers her is that most of them are physically fit but still indulge in begging. “They should not be encouraged by giving alms, this makes them lazy and they make their living with ease,” she says.

Though begging has been banned in the State and the government has set up a rehabilitation centre for them, many continue to disturb people at traffic junctions and near temples. Neeraj — from Haveri, and who has physical disabilities and dropped out after class 7 — spends his entire day begging at various places and sleeps on footpaths. Roopa (name changed), an aged woman hails from Mangalore, who begs near the temple, said, “I often go to different places for begging and spend the night at any bus stop as there is no one to look after me.”

Neelam (name changed), who was taken off the streets by officials from Nirashrithara Parihara Kendra in Pachchanadi — a rehabilitation centre for beggars — was again spotted begging with her husband near Sai Baba Temple, according to Ashok, the Warden of the rehabilitation centre.

The centre ensures that beggars are cured of their diseases, if they have any. They are also put through the de-addiction process and taught some skills so that they can work and earn their livelihood. They can play games such as carroms as well at the centre. Today, it has 137 inmates. Wherever possible, beggars are united with their families. But beggars such as Roopa are, however, not aware of rehabilitation of beggars. “Till now no government official has spoken to me in this regard,” she said.

On effectively curbing beggary, Head of the Department of the Social Work Department of St. Aloysius College Laveena Lobo said that motivating beggars to engage in better work was the only way out.

What the law says

The Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary Act, 1975, bans begging in the State. A clause says that even infirm, disabled, and decrepit beggars and persons suffering from any incurable disease to be arrested and sent to receiving centres. Refusal of a person found begging to go an institution is punishable with imprisonment up to one month or a fine of Rs. 50 or both. Those abetting beggary may be punished to undergo imprisonment for three months or fine up to Rs. 300 or both.

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