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Bombay Prevention of Begging Act needs to be reviewed says city activist Qaneez Sukhrani

Social activist Qaneez Sukhrani has been doggedly pursuing the issue of beggars with the union and state governments for a long time. She spoke to Nadeem Inamdar on the key issues related to the Begging Act, begging gangs and what action can be taken to curb the begging menace in Pune city

pune Updated: Nov 29, 2017 15:21 IST
Nadeem Inamdar
Nadeem Inamdar
Hindustan Times, Pune
Bombay Prevention of Begging Act,Qaneez Sukhrani,activist
The begging mafia usually kidnap kids, maim them and teach them to beg. Later on, these beggars’ kids also grow up to become beggars as they know no other skill and it turns into a family business, believes Qaneez Sukhrani, a social activist in Pune. (Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)

What do you know about begging gangs ?

The begging mafia usually kidnap kids, maim them and teach them to beg. Later on, these beggars’ kids also grow up to become beggars as they know no other skill and it turns into a family business. It is not possible for the police to know who the mafia is, to put them behind bars as they work from behind the shadows. They just target the beggars once in a while to superficially show that they are working. However, never has anyone, including the police that arrest them or the court, ever asked beggars what they want done for them to live a better life. They obviously ask for release and go back to begging on streets. Most of the time, the exploiters the give bail amount and gets them released.

Where in the city is begging rampant usually ?

Begging in public spaces, traffic junctions, especially around high economic areas, malls and hotels is fairly common, often becoming a menace to the common man. It is a violation of human rights under the Indian constitution that the beggars are not being protected by the state and are being exposed to risks and dangers on roads, streets and vehicles in public spaces. It is also a violation of other citizens’ safety as well as they could be run over by any vehicle because of them loitering, crawling, lying on roads, streets and public spaces. Some of them are too high on drugs to be able to withstand the vagaries of weather conditions or being abused. Because of this, they often tend to be aggressive.

What needs to be done to curb this menace?

The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act 1959 needs to be reviewed and re-structured as it criminalises begging. It takes punitive action against the beggar who has been exploited and leaves the exploiter to commit more such crimes. It does not try to eradicate the root cause. Bombay Police Act 1951, under Section 57-A, also criminalises begging. Ministry of social justice and empowerment must prepare a guideline and policy for begging and should strictly implement it in all states so as to rehabilitate them and provide them with skills. this will help them earn a life of dignity. The central ministry must conduct third-party audits of all social welfare departments in all states, starting with Maharashtra. The central government needs to know exactly where and for what purpose public funds allotted for such causes are being used when beggars are suffering in plain public view. The ministry must also issue a resolution to all states to draft a scheme in three months providing protection, care, rehabilitation, vocational training and skills to this highly vulnerable section of the Indian society.

First Published: Nov 27, 2017 15:28 IST