Two days after a 53-year-old professor was arrested and charged for begging on suburban trains, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) said that Sandeep Desai should have sought their permission before starting to collect money, which he uses for setting up education institutes. Desai, however, claimed that he had already given an application to the Railway administration in 2010.
“Before I started making rounds in the local trains for the charity, I had given a written application to the railway administration. The authorities had rejected it, but said that if I don’t trouble anyone, no action will be taken against me,” Desai told HT.
Rajendra Rupnawar, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner (SDSC), Western Railway, said, “I will review the case, and Desai’s background, and will comment only after studying it thoroughly. I am not in a position to judge Desai and his cause unless I have all the details.
Rupnawar said if Desai has been working towards a good cause, the RPF will ensure he is not hassled for irrelevant reasons, but maintained that he should have sought permission.
On Friday, Desai was travelling in a train when two RPF personnel arrested him for begging on a train, causing nuisance and obstructing a railway servant from discharging his duty, under the Railways Act.
The charges were cleared after he paid a fine on Saturday. The SDSC is conducting an inquiry to check if the arrests were made on the basis of a complaint.
Talking to HT from Yavatmal, where he is supervising an under-construction school being built in Umarkhed, Desai said: “There is a thin line between begging and collecting vidya-daan (educational alm) for educational reforms and one need to understand the difference- the beggars take money to fulfill their needs while I collect alms for others.”
When asked if he would move court, Desai said, “Challenging the punishment for begging will be costly and a waste of time.”
Experts said Desai’s intentions were good, but not his strategy.
“It could cause nuisance to passengers when Desai would ask them for alms, hence the consequences,” said IPS officer-turned-lawyer YP Singh adding that Desai can submit a fresh application to seek permission to continue working for his cause.