Chandigarh adviser says admn helpless in removing beggars, but experts beg to differ
UT adviser Manoj Parida’s recent Twitter appeal to Chandigarh residents “not to give money to beggars who rush to you at traffic points” has in turn highlighted the administration’s failure to solve the problem despite laws and infrastructure in place.
Parida’s appeal invited a mixed response as he cautioned people that beggars “could be corona spreaders”, and expressed helplessness, stating that: “We can’t jail them since beggary is not a crime. When put in shelter homes, they run away to make money from streets.”
The same sense of helplessness pervades down the UT administration hierarchy. Harjinder Kaur, chairperson of the Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said: “We keep conducting drives, but without Mohali and Panchkula’s cooperation, it is very difficult to solve the problem in the city.”
Kaur said most of the children removed from streets are from the two satellite cities, and they can’t be rehabilitated without their parents’ permission.
118 DRIVES SINCE APRIL 2019
Navjot Kaur, director, social welfare, said: “During awareness drives, a head count of beggars was conducted in 2018-19. Approximately 50 adult beggars and 80 to 100 children were covered.”
Since April 2019, 118 anti-beggary rescue drives have been carried out in convergence with other stakeholders, wherein 51 children have been rescued, she said.
“Rescued children are later admitted to shelters and need-based interventions, like education, vocational training and bridge courses, are provided to them. Adult beggars are presented before the magistrate, and if admitted to an institute, they are provided with some professional skill. Psychiatry treatment is also provided,” she said.
ADMN CANNOT SHIRK RESPONSIBILITY
Even as the administration contends that teams have been constituted under three subdivisional magistrates, children homes have been constructed and services of adoption agencies have been availed, on the ground the problem has only worsened. Residents agree that giving money to beggars should be avoided, but also argue that the administration cannot shirk its responsibility.
Stating that the problem is becoming acute by the day, Baljinder Singh Bittu, chairman, Federation of Sector Welfare Associations of Chandigarh (FOSWAC), said: “As soon as there is a red signal at a crossing, beggars, both adult and children, rush to vehicles and harass people to dole out money. It is a big mafia that exploits people’s empathy.”
“Even if we accept the adviser’s reasoning that people cannot be arrested for begging, they can at least be removed for obstructing traffic and arrested for exploiting children,” said Hitesh Puri, chairman, Chandigarh Resident Association Welfare Federation (CRAWFED).
LEGAL FRAMEWORK AVAILABLE
In reply to Parida’s tweet, Rajesh Jogpal, a Haryana-cadre Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer and former Panchkula MC commissioner, highlighted: “The Chandigarh administration has adopted Haryana Prevention of Beggary Act 1971, under which beggary is a crime. Chandigarh has three certified institutions to house arrested beggar. Sure the beggars can’t be jailed, but after being arrested, they can be put in these institutions.”
This was also admitted by the administration in the Punjab and Haryana high court in January 2019.
Stating adequate legal provisions are available for stopping begging, Ajay Jagga, a city-based advocate, said: “Begging can be split into two parts: just begging and use of children for begging. As far as adult beggars or for that matter vendors of goods at traffic points are concerned, the drive has to be conducted by both the MC (for removing these encroachers) and police (to ensure free flow of traffic).”
Those who are using children for begging can be booked under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, he said.
Prof Devi Sirohi, former chairperson of the CCPCR, emphasised regular monitoring and coordinated effort by different government agencies to solve the problem, “In 2016, we had conducted a survey for estimating its scale. By the beginning of 2017, we could achieve much success, but, this is an ongoing exercise. Constant monitoring is a must if the problem is to be solved.”