Dr. Tasaduk Hussain Itoo

The begging mafia needs to be checked!

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Begging is emerging more as a business venture for certain organized groups, or mafias, than having anything to do with piety and charity. Strict steps should be taken to identify the guilty and the civil society as well as administration must take serious note of this growing trend and initiate necessary steps to end this social menace.

As a matter of fact, begging mafia is posing severe threat to the socio-economic, political and cultural fabric of the society as well-organized groups exploit people, including children and women, handicapped and healthy for getting richer using them as cannon fodder. These Mafias provide them food and basic amenities and force them to seek alms in streets, markets and other places all days and all weathers.

Kashmir was free from this menace and the society was mature enough to take care of its destitute, but things have changed drastically and now it is not about Kashmiri beggars but hundreds and thousands of those who reach here from other states of India. Though the laws seeking its abolition including ‘J&K Prevention of Beggary Act, 1960’ are supposedly intact and in force, their implementation in practical sense of the term is put on halt. To combat this menace, the government authorities and civil-society should put their efforts in place to end this menace.

In my opinion, priority should be given to eradication of extreme poverty and subsequent action should be taken for the rehabilitation of the beggars. Such steps should be initiated from the premises of the city and then extended to other parts of the state. Government must identify and initiated a process of rehabilitating those who are destitute and subsequently fall into the web of these mafias.

Small shelters should be built to provide them a roof and skills should be imparted to them so that they can be extending their services as semi-skilled or skilled labourers. This way, they shall earn their livelihood and not seek alms for the same.

Though many people take to begging owing to poverty, nobody can however deny the fact that begging has become a menace and an organized way of several thousands of people who are healthy and yet refuse to take any offer to work- they would rather go begging.

Of late, begging has become part of an organized crime and several people reach here from outside for the same purpose. The peak rush is seen during the month of Ramadan and around the festivals of Eid. People from Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Andrah Pradesh, besides other states, make their way into the valley and are seen nearly everywhere indulging in begging. The State Government must ensure a beggar-free J&K by banning the practice after duly rehabilitating the aged, the ill, children, women and those who are physically challenged among the beggars. Non-governmental organizations working for the betterment of the society should also play their part.

Begging mafias often abduct children to force them into begging. The Government should make a rapid action force and ensure that such children are sent back to their parents and for this police should step up vigil and help rehabilitate them. Those who claim to be physically challenged and show fake injuries to earn alms should be sent back to their native places.

I believe that giving alms should be considered an offence and Panchayats, municipalities and corporations should make a concerted effort in enforcing the ban on begging but not before creating a trust by setting apart contributions from the public. Rehabilitation programmes and vocational training should be imparted to genuine destitute.

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