Taking a step forward towards the strict implementation of the Punjab Prevention of Begging Act, 1971, a team of officials picked up 16 beggars from various areas in the city and took them to a shelter home under the “prevention of beggary”, an initiative undertaken by the Ludhiana district administration.
The aim is not only to curtail begging, but also to rehabilitate the beggars and send them back to their parent states. The programme aims at dealing with the social as well as criminal aspect attached with the menace of begging as a large number of beggars are addicts or alcoholics and are involved in anti-social activities such as snatching and stealing. Also, some have left their parent states to come and make an easy living on begging.
From providing skill development training to ensuring pensions in relevant cases from the social security department, the special drive will also take care of providing education to the children of the beggars in the government schools across the city.
The beggars were picked up by an official vehicle from outside religious institutions near Jagraon Bridge, Dandi Swami Chowk, a mosque in Civil Lines and Bharat Nagar Chowk in the morning and were taken to a night shelter at Hambran Road which has been rechristened as shelter home (open for destitute 24x7). Seeing the staff of various departments convincing and counselling the beggars to take a bath and put on fresh pair of clothes was indeed a touching moment. Some male beggars readily agreed to get their hair trimmed, there were others who refused on specific grounds.
Deputy commissioner Rajat Agarwal termed the project a joint venture of all departments wherein the district administration, police commissionerate and department of health and family welfare would work in close coordination for making Ludhiana “beggar-free”.
“The drive is an initiative of the district administration wherein we have roped in some non-governmental organisations (NGOs), philanthropists who will donate for food and articles of daily needs and will provide skill development training to suitable cases. We are also sending back the outsiders to their parent states by providing them train tickets. The drive will be repeated after every 15 days,” the DC went on to add.
Leaving the minors, all adult beggars gave an undertaking not to practice begging and it was clearly mentioned that anyone caught begging for the third time will have to face the music as the administration will register first information report (FIR) against the guilty under the Punjab Prevention of Begging Act. A photograph, along with the thumb impression, was also taken from the beggars.
However, changing the attitude of beggars appears to be an uphill task for the staff involved in the programme as majority of them denied being beggars.
Shatrughan from Darbanga district of Bihar said he was a cobbler by profession and had never resorted to begging even in his toughest of times. Whereas,the government employees stated that they had various witnesses who certified that he was begging for almost a decade in the Haibowal area.
Similarly, Bharat Bhushan, 50, who is seen begging outside a temple near Jagraon Bridge also said a straight no to being a beggar. ‘Hum mar jayenge lekin bheek nahin mangte (I would rather die than beg)’. But the eyewitnesses stated that he makes 100-150 every day from begging for almost two decades.