A beggar begs at the light point at Sector 22 in Chandigarh.(HT Photo)
A beggar begs at the light point at Sector 22 in Chandigarh.(HT Photo)

Readers’ take: Beggars should be encouraged to take charge of their lives, not bank on charity

Identify people on the streets, hospitalise the ill and the infirm; get children to schools and let the able bodied be given skills training and employment opportunities. The UT administration has no other option but to act now, say Hindustan Times Chandigarh readers
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON AUG 07, 2020 11:16 PM IST

You can’t miss the beggars. They are present at various spots around the tricity such as railway stations, bus stops, roundabouts, markets and religious places. The homeless and destitute, landless labourers and others stricken by poverty indulge in begging in the absence of any employment. Some children are forced to beg by the begging mafia and also made to indulge in crimes. On occasions the poor also encourage their children to beg. What the authorities need to do immediately is.

1. Hospitalise the ill and the infirm

2. Identify children who beg and send them to school

3. Arrest physically fit and mentally alert beggars under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act 1959 or the Haryana Prevention of Beggary Act 1971.

The problem will not disappear unless governments show the will to mainstream such people.

SK Khosla, Chandigarh

The dispensation needs to walk the extra mile to efficaciously deal with the menace of begging, especially in the new normal situation triggered by the ongoing battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. Should the dispensation want to take on the menace, it needs to crack the whip on those giving alms to the beggars, especially at light points. Police patrolling during peak hours needs to be beefed up. NGOs, sector bodies and the citizenry can play a pivotal role in at least minimising the menace, if not totally containing it.

Ramesh K Dhiman, Chandigarh

Begging has become a common problem in the tricity. The following steps can help eradicate it:

- Compulsory and aided (ie free) education for children forced to beg, till Class 10. This will make children self reliant and provide them basic knowledge for socio-economic growth.

- Secondly, if the government takes steps to form bodies/association similar to ASHA (accredited social health activist) so that women/young girls can be taken care of, it can end begging among them. Women in slum areas have no facilities with respect to hygiene and social and food security. If ways and means to this are provided by the government, people will stop begging. Thirdly, harsh steps ought to be taken against those begging and skills taught to them to start earning.

Rajinder Preet Kaur, Rajpura

Practice of begging is rampant, especially in metros and urban areas despite laws and measures adopted by state and Central agencies to curb it. There are organised gangs which exploit the innocents and force them to beg just for money. Rescue teams should be formed at district levels to identify such gangs, the members of which should be punished according to existing laws. The old and infirm who are forced to beg should be sent to destitute homes and children sent to rehabilitation and training centres. Offering alms to beggars at religious congregations, sites should also be made a punishable offence.

Anil Vinayak, Amritsar

One is overwhelmed with sadness in these times of Covid-19 to see people with small children and carrying babies in their arms, begging at street junctions and streets. Most of them are homeless which is dangerous in the Covid pandemic situation. Such people should be put up in rehabilitation centres set up by state authorities with the help of social and charitable institutes. They should be taught skill development techniques so that they can stand on their feet.

Col TBS Bedi (retd), Mohali

The beggars of the city can easily be resettled if the administration shows some intent and decides to use its existing available resources. They can be accommodated in night shelters made by the administration. And as the free ration scheme is already in place, food can be provided to these beggars irrespective of whether they possess ration cards or not. These people should also be provided skill training and education and made aware of the employment opportunities available under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which would benefit them and fulfil the labour needs of the administration.

Gurnoor Grewal, Chandigarh

First of all it is really important to know what begging really means. It means asking for money, food and shelter from people without doing any hard work. We all have heard that hard work is the key to success and this should be the mantra everyone should follow. To stop begging, citizens have to take the initiative and instead of money give food and clothes to them. Once they run out of money the beggars will have no choice but to work. Secondly, the government should provide them free shelter so they will not be under pressure to pay extra for lodgings while they work. We should also encourage people who are working hard and trying to sell products, in whichever way possible, by buying from them.

Ishita Nara

The main concern of a person who begs is to make enough money for four square meals a day. So, they should be counselled first and given the assurance that they will earn while learning and put up free of cost in shelters. They should be imparted skills training and in that course of time should be paid for the work they do, like paid internships. Their children should be sent to government schools and teachers engaged to teach them in the shelters. The youngsters should also at the same time be given some vocational training to help them earn a living going forward. The government should come up with a law to ban begging and to start opportunities for beggars to live with dignity.

Abhilasha Gupta, Mohali

Begging is a full time profession for many Indians but in a pandemic situation it can be a source of transmission. Those who are able bodied should be jailed for a short while and made to understand why begging should not be encouraged. Those who are on the streets should also be medically tested for Covid. A special fine should be imposed on people who feed them or give money to them to discourage this practice.

Avinash Goyal, Chandigarh

Beggary is deeply rooted in Indian society. Most religions promote giving of alms, which encourages beggars. From time immemorial, beggary has been encouraged as noble, but with close observation and wide experience, mankind has realised that it is a vice, not a virtue for any society. It is against human dignity to earn one’s livelihood without contributing anything to society. Beggars are a burden on the economy of the country and do not produce anything. Often, such people take to petty crimes too. What we needed is strict enforcement of Haryana Prevention of Beggary Act, 1971, duly adopted by the Chandigarh administration. UT adviser Manoj Parida has said he is helpless but the government cannot skip its duty. It must enforce the law, and must give relief to the citizens. However, the locals too need to show their determination to eradicate this evil and stop giving alms to the beggars as it promotes indolence and laziness because of which even children are forced to beg.

Manoj Malik, Chandigarh

Begging is a social blot and both a humanitarian and law and order issue and warrants a two-pronged resolution with a timebound road map. Those physically challenged, abandoned or others renouncing the material world for spiritual solace must be taken care of by the administration and society. It is appalling to see famished children sleeping on an empty stomach. In a welfare state, those who are starving should have the first right to public purse and resources. Free community kitchens should be set up for the really poor and needy. Traffic policemen/marshals must not be mute spectators to small children or young women with babies in arms walking from vehicle to vehicle at traffic light points. Organised gangs running the begging business should be busted immediately. As most beggars belong to a floating population who have made the tricity their base for making money they must be sent back to their native places. Parents of small children found begging should be counselled about family planning. However, they should not be treated unkindly for most of them are not here by choice. They deserve empathy because begging strikes at the dignity and psyche of an individual.

Lalit Bharadwaj, Panchkula

Of course we have the Haryana Prevention of Beggary Act 1971 to nab the beggars and put them behind bars, but that is not the answer. If anyone has to be imprisoned it’s the begging mafia, the kingpins profiteering from this business and not the old woman knocking at your car window. We have to view and tackle beggary as a social problem. People take to begging out of poverty and helplessness. They need rehabilitation. It is true many of them get used to the free life and try to resist being mainstreamed, but then the UT authorities and the municipal corporation has to prevail. A road map has to be drawn to remove beggars from the streets in the next five years. First, an account should be taken of total number of beggars, by categories (men, women, children, sick, elderly etc), and the yearly increase in their numbers. Then, an assessment needs to be made for providing them shelters and jobs. They are our human resource. Some work, based on their skills, should be given to them, and children should be sent to schools. These people have to regain their self esteem, and realise their worth.

Col RD Singh (retd), Ambala

The sad part is that many beggars you see at light points suffer from highly infectious diseases such as leprosy, tuberculosis and now maybe even Covid-19. They also come in contact daily with the general public. Apart from medically testing such people they should also be hospitalised and given treatment. Other able bodied beggars be taken to task and punished and later counselled to start work. . Job opportunities should also be created for such people. The traffic police should not allow them to sit /stand or wander near traffic signals. The administration should arrange for shelters for the handicapped and aged beggars. Local residents should make it a point not to give them money.

Sumesh Kumar Badhwar, Mohali

Having failed to eradicate beggary while spending crores on making Chandigarh a smart city, the administration looks to be trying to find the legal way out to evade responsibility when it comes to removing beggars from the streets. The number of people left to fend themselves on the streets have increased recently due to joblessness after the Covid-19 outbreak. Most of them cannot even afford one square meal a day. In an effort reach out to all such people volunteers of our Humble To Be Chandigarhian, a socially conscious group, has started distributing face masks to people who have no money to buy them in slum colonies and at conspicuous places such as the Housing Board Chowk. Yes, we are not at the Sukhna Lake as advocated by the adviser to the UT administrator, where the visitors hardly need a free mask and generally throw these within the precincts of the lake area.

SC Luthra, Chandigarh

‘Bhiksha’ is an old tradition for saints of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism to get food. Even among Muslims, you have Zakat. ‘Langar seva’ in Sikhism takes care of food and shelter, and hence that fulfils the basic needs of a follower. The beggars perform no useful social function, and hence they are a burden on society. It is one of India’s biggest scourges and an embarrassment for all when foreign visitors see them. The superstitions and the orthodox mindset of our citizens, that giving to a beggar is charity, have to change. The main factors that lead to begging, such as unemployment, underemployment, landlessness, poverty, calamity, famines and destitution should be addressed. One solution is to set up penal labour colonies, where psychiatrist treatment, skill enhancement and basic education, medical facilities, recreation and nutritious food should be provided to beggars. A total ban at railway stations and bus stands should be enforced.

Rajiv Boolchand Jain

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