Beggar menace on the rise

LACK OF concerted effort on the part of the civic authorities and the police has resulted in an increase in the presence of beggars in the city. Of late, the number of people from other States indulging in begging along the city roads has increased.

The City Police had recently put the migrant labour community under the spotlight after there were pointers leading to involvement of these groups in a few murder cases in Kochi. The drive to put these groups inside the city under observation is losing momentum at present.

"Generally, there is a feeling that the drive is against Tamil labourers, which is wrong. We do not harass people who have genuinely come to work here. We monitor only those found under suspicious circumstances. Fingerprints and other details of such persons are collected and sent to their home town to trace criminal antecedents, if any," said M.N. Jayaprakash, Superintendent of Police (Rural). Occasions like Sivaratri festival attract these groups in large numbers and once the festival is over, they stay on.

Their presence is often felt near traffic lights, where women carrying children are found begging.

Many drivers give money out of fear that they could damage the car by scratching the exterior with coins.

While the police are maintaining that the civic authorities should evolve a comprehensive plan to counter this issue, the Corporation is at a loss in finding a permanent solution.

"We conduct frequent drives for checking the presence of beggars in the city. But in the absence of a permanent solution and little follow-up action, the old situation reverts," said K.J. Antony, chairman of Welfare Standing Committee of the Kochi Corporation.

To book people found begging, the force still evokes age-old laws like the Travancore Prevention of Begging Act, 1120; the Cochin Vagrancy Act, 1120; or the Madras Prevention of Begging Act, 1945.

Even though these laws mention putting able-bodied persons to workhouses for productive rehabilitation and disabled and the aged to settlement camps, rarely are they followed.