Increasing menace of beggars in Srinagar city worry residents, tourists

Srinagar, May 15: In the absence of strong laws, begging of non- Locals has taken alarming dimensions in the Srinagar city, with the women and children as young as six-year-olds in shabby conditions roaming the market places and seeking alms.
It has also been seen that the increasing menace of beggars is also worrying the hundreds of tourists visiting the valley daily. “Instead of being welcomed by the authorities of J&K Tourism or Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) the visitors after entering into the city here are welcomed by scores of non State Subject beggars who mostly include children and women,” one of the senior residents of Rajbagh said.
He said that most of time the situation turns ugly when these beggars force the tourists and residents to pay money to them and also demand eatables from them when they make purchasing from local shops. “The child beggars follow the passengers’ vehicles when they reach at crossing points and stop them and demand money,” he maintained.
The visiting tourists here are so scared of these beggars that they hesitate to eat anything in their presence as they ghearo them and do not allow them to purchase anything before paying them money or something to eat.
The authorities watch this like mute spectators without bothering about the discomfort of the people who feel humiliated due to the actions of the beggars who mostly are from Rajasthan and have become a problem for the residents and tourists.
The alarming thing is that the small children who should have been in school as it was the age of their schooling are being used for begging either by their parents or by any agency which has made the begging as a means of earning money. The authorities instead of maintaining constant check on the same are not bothered about it.
One of the woman beggars at Lalchowk said that she belongs to Rajasthan and they chose begging to earn their livelihood. She said ten to 15 children are also begging and did not want to go school for education.
These beggars are residing in temporary sheds raised on the different areas of the city with their family members and all of them are non residents of the State.
Lal Chowk, Batamallo, Residency road, M. A road, Hayderpora and bus stops are some of the busy areas where the presence of beggars is creating problems for people. Though the J&K Prevention of Beggary Act, 1960, makes it a criminal offence to beg and empowers the police to arrest a person if found begging, the police however has completely turned a blind eye to the matter.
“Stringent law is the need of the hour to deal with the menace. The children need rehabilitation and efforts should be made to take action against people involved in pushing kids in such trade,” said, a university student.
Interestingly these beggars are not from Kashmir itself, but are migrants from states like UP, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“I am always in a dilemma whether to give alms to the child beggars or not because I am not sure if they will use them appropriately. I have heard that there are begging mafias involved in using children,” said Habib-Ullah, a resident.
Beggary has become an organized crime with the worst affected victims being kids. They are forced into beggary and live under the constant duress of their supervisors. The authorities concerned have failed to perform their duty of checking the rising racket. Although many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working for child welfare, but not much has been done on ground to rehabilitate the children who live in sub-human conditions,” said one of the social activists. (KNS)

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