Saturday, March 13, 2010

Govt to ask for NGO help in rehabilitating city's beggars

The Delhi government is having trouble getting rid of the city's beggars before the Commonwealth Games. Attempts to get states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa to take back `their' beggars have been unsuccessful so far.

With space for only 2,100 beggars in its homes, no rehabilitation plan in place and the city teeming with thousands of beggars, the Delhi government is now hoping to rope in the voluntary sector to help rehabilitate beggars in the city and to facilitate their return to their native villages in other states.

The department of social welfare is planning on taking out an advertisement, asking for NGOs to help in the rehabilitation process. After a meeting with the social welfare secretary on Friday, chief secretary Rakesh Mehta said he has asked officials to prepare a plan with the focus being on the rehabilitation of beggars.

Mehta said beggars were being rounded up by mobile beggar courts from time to time. But he expressed concern about their future, saying they would have to be released after they had completed their one-year jail terms. So, the problem remains. Moreover, what happens when space in the government's homes for beggars is exhausted? Social welfare secretary Manoj Parida said there is space for 2,100 beggars in all the homes. Right now, there are about 900 beggars in these homes.

The government has written to the states from which most of Delhi's beggars come. But it has not got much of an answer. The chief secretary said states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have shown no interest in taking back their beggars. Uttar Pradesh and Orissa have also expressed their reluctance. Haryana and Rajasthan have not refused but they have responded vaguely, said senior officials.

Meanwhile, with no concrete plan to deal with the city's beggars in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, and the debate over decriminalising beggary still on, the government, for now, is simply saying that no beggars will be allowed near the Games village and the sports venues.

While there is no comprehensive data on the number of beggars in the city, a 2006 study on beggars 5,003 of them were interviewed by the department of social work, Delhi University showed that 44.36% of Delhi's beggars had come from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, 4.96% belonged to Delhi, almost 30% of the beggars were found to be under 18 years of age and 69.94% were male.

The study pointed out that many of the beggars would quit begging if they got jobs.

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