[Reader-list] "Anti-begging drive" in New Delhi

Pranesh Prakash the.solipsist at gmail.com
Mon Jun 9 00:52:55 IST 2008

Dear All,
Reopening the debate on criminalisation of poverty vs. "beautification" of
urban spaces, the Delhi Government (Social Welfare Department) has started
enforcing anti-begging legislation (by rounding up beggars) and, as a new
measure, fingerprinting them as well.  Delhi is not alone in this regard.
Received knowledge tells me that in some cities (Dubai and Hong Kong come
readily to mind) the poverty levels are much higher than one realises by
casually walking through most of the streets because the governments have
worked hard in concealing the poverty.  (Many years back, a news documentary
on one of the two major networks in Hong Kong dealt with this issue, showing
the squalid chicken-coops (which were positively inhuman) in which the poor
were provided "free housing" by the government.)

The issues aren't that clear-cut.  While we all know of artificially
scarred/burnt/crippled children, who are thrown into the deep end of the
begging pool, and we also know that government-run "beggars' homes" are more
often than places filled with corruption (a Tehelka investigation brought
this to light, if memory serves me right).  A simple pro-poor/pro-government
stance can't be taken, as the issues can't be reduced to a poor vs. the
State dichotomy.

What are the ways out of this (apart from a magical reduction in poverty)?
Any thoughts?

- Pranesh


Anti-begging drive intensified in Delhi
Press Trust of India / New Delhi June 08, 2008, 16:41 IST

Intensifying the anti-begging campaign in Delhi, authorities have picked
around 100 beggars, including women and children, in the last three days and
sent them to the homes meant for their rehabilitation.

The drive is being launched by the Department of Social Welfare in a bid to
make the national capital beggar-free by 2010, when it will host the
Commonwealth Games.

"In the last three days, we picked these beggars spotted in Connaught Place,
Hanuman Mandir and Janpath area and sent them to the homes in Lampur and
Kingsway Camp," Social Welfare Department director S K Saxena said.

He said the beggars are being produced before respective magistrates and to
prove their case the department have done videography of the beggars seeking

The anti-begging campaign had to be stopped in March because of shortage of

Now the drive has been restarted and will continue with an aim to put an end
to the practice of begging in the city, the official said.

Saxena said there is a provision under the anti-begging legislation in Delhi
to remove beggars from the streets and keep them in beggars' homes or at
juvenile rehabilitation centres if they are under the age of 16.

He said, "begging in the city is on rise and at times the involvement of
mafia has been found."

"To ensure that the beggars do not start begging again, we are taking their
finger-prints through bio-metric system installed at the beggars' homes," he

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