Concerned over the glaring increase in the number of beggars across all major cities and towns in the country, the Centre is now focussing on preventing begging.
To begin with, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has asked the States and Union Territories to inform the Centre about schemes and welfare measures taken by them to check beggary.No information on implementation
“Although various State governments and Union Territories have enacted anti-beggary legislations or adopted measures through executive orders, not much information regarding the status of their implementation is available,” wrote the Ministry to the States.
Begging is considered a crime in India under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, rather than a social issue. An individual found begging can be sent to a begging shelter home or even jail without a trial. Several States have adopted this Act.
Begging is a social problem and has multifarious ramifications, especially in metropolitan cities and towns. It has become a major concern, needing immediate attention for its prevention in a multipronged manner, the Ministry said, while demanding data from States on anti-beggary measures adopted by them.
The Centre and State governments and the National Crime Records Bureau have no data on the number of beggars in the country.
“Identifying beggars is a complex thing. Any individual who ‘looks’ like a beggar – shabbily dressed and unkempt – is considered a beggar, even if he is of unsound mental frame,” said Amod Kanth, former chairperson of the Delhi Commission on Protection of Child Rights and the vice chairperson of the Apex Committee set up by the Delhi High Court to supervise the running of the 207 shelter homes in the national capital.
“Worse, homeless people and landless labourers who migrate to bigger cities in search of livelihood, destitute people and other categories of people fall into the category of beggars and it is extremely difficult to differentiate [them],” he added.
Only 10 per cent of the people living in 207 shelter homes in Delhi are actually beggars. All others are working people who have no place to live. Old and ill people also co-exist in these shelter homes. This can also, at times, result in people becoming drug addicts or alcoholics, he said.No mechanism for rehabilitation
“In fact, there is no mechanism to rehabilitate these destitute people or even bring them under the ambit of the Right to Food Act,” Mr Kanth said.