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It beggars belief! Puneites getting richer and every major junction is now ‘beggar central’

The charity commissioner’s office runs the Bhikari Mukta Pune ( Beggar-free Pune ) initiative under which it plans to rehabilitate the beggars and also keeps a tab on the beggar population in the city.

pune Updated: Nov 27, 2017 15:06 IST
Nadeem Inamdar
Nadeem Inamdar
Hindustan Times, Pune
beggar,pune,population
With the city’s affluence growing everyday and due to the lack of any regulation mechanism by the state and central government, begging as a profession has been growing unabated during the last decade.(HT FILE PHOTO)

According to information from the charity commissioner’s office, the beggar population of Pune has doubled since 2015. NGOs working towards curtailing the beggar menace in the city, government agencies and police officials have alleged that the hike can be attributed to the rising disposable income among the populace of the city and the ease with which citizens donate money to beggars. The charity commissioner’s office runs the Bhikari Mukta Pune ( Beggar-free Pune ) initiative under which it plans to rehabilitate the beggars and also keeps a tab on the beggar population in the city.

With the city’s affluence growing everyday and due to the lack of any regulation mechanism by the state and central government, begging as a profession has been growing unabated during the last decade. The special drives are one-off cases conducted by the police on rare occasions for the sake of records, anti-begging experts said.

According to experts, beggars seeking a living at traffic junctions, religious places, theatre and entertainment joints, educational institutes and playgrounds are a regular phenomenon in Pune. Hundreds of begging children can be seen dodging traffic dangerously trying to get alms from the commuters and have remain unchecked by the law enforcement agencies till date.

A joint charity commissioner at Pune office said that office has been working with NGOs and the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to rehabilitate the beggars in Pune City. “The begging population has reached around 30,000 according to our rough estimates and we are working out an effective mechanism to find a long-term solution to the problem,” said the joint charity commissioner on terms of anonymity.

Interestingly, the Kondhwa Police, which recently took an aggressively stance against beggars in areas under their jurisdiction, were shocked when 27 arrested beggars promptly furnished a bail amount of Rs 5,000 each and obtained bail from the court.

Kondhwa police station inspector, Milind Gaikwad, said that begging was a crime and the police is currently in the process of busting the begging rackets in Kondhwa. “It is for the first time in recent times that a major crackdown has been launched against beggars at different chowks and spots frequented by beggars. Prime locations and religious places have become havens for beggars . People have now stopped giving small changes as alms and usually give anywhere between Rs 5 and Rs 10 to the beggars . Residents must refrain from giving alms to the beggars and instead, donate towards the cause of the society in terms of education ,” he said.

The additional commissioner (south region), in a gazette notification, had asked 10 police stations to conduct a special drive against the beggar menace from November 20 - 22, but there has been no headway till date. Surprisingly, Kondhwa police station has surged ahead due to people’s participation during all their special drives.

Social activist Qaneez Sukhrani, who was been actively pursuing the issue with the central government, says that begging was a serious menace affecting our society. “The exploiters working behind these beggars pay the money when they are arrested and produced before court. The Beggar’s Act is also archaic and has never been reviewed. The police too are unconcerned as they are a part of the begging syndicates. It is only once in a while that a new officer arrests them. The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is even more ill-informed about their responsibility while the elected representatives have ignored them as they are not their vote bank ,” she added.

Sukhrani has also taken up the issue with the municipal commissioner of the city asking him to formulate a plan for the rehabilitation of beggars. She has also urged the corporate sector to fund the project through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative.

First Published: Nov 27, 2017 14:40 IST