By: Sameer Lone
Srinagar: Popularly known for its breathtaking beauty that has earned it a sobriquet of “paradise on earth”, Kashmir is fast turning into a “beggars heaven.”
Hundreds of beggars – who are mostly found indulging in drug abuse and pick pocketing- have become a matter of concern for the people
These beggars have taken positions at various important places in the city, especially in commercial hub Lal Chowk, Sanat Nagar, Nowgam and other main crossings in the city including famed tourist spot the Boulevard stretch.
An estimated data of Jammu and Kashmir government reveals there are over three lakh labourers that include a huge chunk of beggars in the Valley. “We don’t have any exact official record about the number of non-locals. There has been no exercise on their survey,” said an official at the Divisional Commissioner’s office.
Police records also reveal that a large number of these beggars have been found involved in burglary, pick-pocketing and other social crimes.
“They won’t let you go, until you pay them. Now they don’t take a single rupee. Even they chase you if you don’t pay them,” the pedestrians who often face these beggars say.
Most of these beggars are teenagers and children who wander on the streets both naked and half-naked. “There is no doubt that social crimes are increasing here. From last one-and-a-half month some cases of kidnapping, murder, trafficking and disappearances have been reported,” a senior police officer said.
“Ghulam Mood Chapri, a shopkeeper in Lal-Chowk said they (beggars) make a good amount of money here in the summer season.
“But we are now concerned over their huge presence. They bring diseases here as well. Our society is at the risk of communicable diseases.”
There are also reports that these beggars after the sunset indulge in illegal practices and other drug abuses. “During late evenings, flocks of drunkards comprising mostly beggars flock at the Bund area and Lal Chowk,” said the locals.