In Bangalore, beggary is booming profession

June 17th, 2009 - 11:53 am ICT by IANS  

By Maitreyee Boruah
Bangalore, June 17 (IANS) It’s been almost eight years since Prasad migrated from Suganahalli, a small village in north Karnataka, to earn his livelihood in India’s tech hub. After failing to land a job, he took to begging and is “happy’ earning around Rs.40 a day now.

“I didn’t come to Bangalore to be a beggar. After failure to get any job, I decided to beg. I manage to earn Rs.30-40 a day and am happy,” Prasad, 40, told IANS near Cubbon Road in the heart of the city’s central business district.

He was caught five years ago by officials entrusted with the task of rehabilitating beggars. But he was back on the street after a three-year hiatus during which he was in Beggars’ Colony run by the state government to impart skills in various crafts.

Beggars’ Colony at Summanahalli on Magadi Road, about 15 km from the city centre, was established in 1944 to serve as a rescue and rehabilitation centre for those arrested for begging.

The Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary Act 1975 bars people from begging and the authorities can take them into custody for trial and rehabilitation.

During his three years at the Colony, Prasad learned various crafts, including carpentry. However, when the authorities released him, he chose to go back to his old profession, begging.

“For begging you don’t need any money to start up. One has to just stand at the corner of a road and ask people for money. Getting a job in Bangalore is hard; so people like us prefer to beg,” said Prasad.

According to M. Ramaya, secretary of the Central Relief Committee under the Department of Social Welfare, Karnataka, around 10 percent of beggars released from the Colony again take to begging on Bangalore’s roads.

“Begging is a social problem. The entire society has to deal with it. Once we arrest them, we keep them at the Colony for a maximum period of three years. Along with counselling, we also train them in various vocational skills,” Ramaya told IANS.

Currently the Colony has 922 inmates.

Be it the popular M.G. Road in the heart of the city or recently developed areas like Sarjapur Road, pedestrians and motorists invariably are accosted by beggars.

There is no official estimate of the number of beggars and homeless people in Bangalore. However, according to Census 2001 figures, India has about two million homeless people.

“The government should come up with a proper plan to rescue and rehabilitate the beggars and homeless people of the city,” said social worker T. Raja, the founder of Home of Hope, a place for the destitute in Bangalore.

“The state should ensure that after training the rescued beggars, they give them proper job opportunities, instead of releasing them to fend for themselves.”

Kalyani, who migrated from Rajasthan to the city some 30 years ago, was forced to turn to begging after the sudden death of her husband almost 20 years ago. “I have no one in this world. I beg and live on the streets,” she said.

Although police deny the involvement of gangs in running a begging racket in Bangalore on the lines of Mumbai, a large number of children have over the years taken to begging.

“Take a stroll in upscale Brigade Road during evening and you will easily see 20-30 children begging within a distance of 500 metres. Begging is an offence and still the administration is not taking any strict action to end the problem,” said child rights activist Padma Koppa.

Said IT professional Ranjit Rana, “It’s sad that India’s high tech city has become home to a large number of beggars. It’s high time the government rehabilitated beggars and brought an end to the profession of beggary.”

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at m.boruah@ians.in)

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