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Begging decriminalised in Delhi: Activists demand audit, framework for rehabilitation of beggars

Activists working for the welfare of people who take to begging hailed the Delhi high court’s judgment but said it would not solve the long-pending problem of the rehabilitation of beggars.

delhi Updated: Aug 09, 2018 11:47 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
delhi,Delhi HC,begging decriminalised
The Delhi HC on Wednesday decriminalised begging, saying criminalising begging violates the most fundamental rights of some of the most vulnerable people in society.(Parveen Kumar / HT File Photo )

Even though the Delhi High Court on Wednesday decriminalised begging, there are several grey areas such as the rehabilitation of people involved in the activity and an audit of how many of them are there on the streets regarding which there is no policy, social activists said.

The activists working for the welfare of people who take to begging hailed the court’s judgment but said it would not solve the long-pending problem of the rehabilitation of beggars.

“I am yet to see the complete order. The court order to decriminalise beggary is a big step towards rehabilitation of such people. However, if the judgment doesn’t address the rehabilitation component, it will not serve the interest of the people involved in it,” said Mohammad Tariq , director Koshish, an NGO affiliated with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) that works with issues related to beggary.

While most states including Delhi have adopted the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, said Tariq, the law “lacks a community intervention”.

The two shelter homes in the Capital for beggars are only those where they are kept after being picked up by the police and sent there by the orders of the court.

Until now, the police was empowered to arrest beggars. Last year, the Delhi Police, along with the city government’s social welfare department officials, had conducted a drive to remove beggars from Connaught Place area. In the drive, around 250 beggars were removed.

Madhur Verma, Delhi Police spokesperson, said, “It’s a welcome move as begging is more of a social menace. It requires a more inclusive approach, which looks at possible solutions to rehabilitate beggars. Arresting someone for begging was hardly ever a solution.”

According to Delhi government officials, the department of social welfare had framed guidelines suggesting rehabilitation of beggars but they are pending approval as the Centre is yet to bring a bill on destitution.

“In the guidelines framed around a year and a half ago, we had defined beggary as a livelihood crisis. The guidelines suggested to identify skills of those found begging and provide them vocational training,” said a senior official.

He said that the government had also prepared a scheme, Samarth Yuva, under which beggars between the ages of 16 and 18 years were to be provided skills training in a tie-up with the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC). However, the proposal is yet to be sent to the cabinet for approval.

Sunil Kumar Aledia, who works for the homeless, said before taking up a rehabilitation programme the city should conduct an audit to check how many people are involved in begging.

“The Delhi government, along with the United Nations, had conducted a survey of the homeless people in the city in 2011. However, the survey, mission convergence, was not completed. We have since been urging the government to conduct a survey, which can be followed up with a skills training programme,” said Aledia.

First Published: Aug 09, 2018 11:46 IST