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Begging is a Rs 15 crore pa industry in Hyderabad

Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad | July 10, 2005 16:54 IST
Last Updated: July 10, 2005 16:56 IST

Begging has become a lucrative profession in Hyderabad with the 10,466-odd alms-seekers making a whopping Rs 15 crore per annum.

This was found after a survey commissioned by the Hyderabad District Collectorate and conducted by a city-based non-Governmental Organistaion, Hyderabad Council of Human Welfare.

The district administration has planned to implement a rehabilitation package for beggars to wean them away from their favourite avocation. In all, 77 volunteers were involved in the two-month-long massive data collection exercise for the survey.

The survey reveals that one out of every 354 residents of Hyderabad is engaged in begging. Almost 21% of the 10,466 beggars earn above Rs 2,000 per month, while 47% make between Rs 900 to Rs 2,000 pm.

Another 30% earn less than Rs 900 a month. A whopping 92% of the average earnings of the beggars go towards food, followed by shelter, drug habits and entertainment.

Sixty-five percent of the beggars earn their money by direct soliciting and the remaining make their living through other methods such as devotional singing and exhibiting the portraits of gods etc.

The beggars include 5,814 males (55.5%), 4,615 females (44.1%) and 39 eunuchs (0.4%).

Almost 73% of the beggars are 'outsiders', including 66% from other districts and 7% from other states. Curiously, four foreigners (Nepalese) are engaged in begging in Hyderabad.

Most of the beggars (86%) belong to weaker sections, including Scheduled Castes (40%), Backward Classes (30%), Scheduled Tribes (12%) and minorities (4%).

Interestingly, the study found that 300 beggars who had migrated to Delhi had shifted back to Hyderabad as they found Hyderabadis to be more generous and God-fearing than the people of Delhi.

A shocking revelation, of course, is that 31% of 175 adolescent female beggars were sexually abused and 50% were physically abused. The abusers include street children (77%), street youth (13%) and cycle and autorickshaw drivers (10%).

Policemen, too, occasionally sexually abuse these girls. 67% of the girls were not aware of the risk of HIV/AIDS.

Among the places of begging, religious places are considered to be safe areas, while traffic junctions and footpaths, though more fetching, are viewed as risky by the beggars.

Religious places constitute 34% of the 'begging spots', followed by footpaths (15%), commercial centres (12%) and
traffic junctions (8%).

Also, 41% of the beggars have their own dwellings such as huts or makeshift homes, while 20% live on pavements, 11% under bus shelters, 15% in railway stations and the remaining in parks and religious places.

A whopping 85% of the beggars have come into this profession on their own accord, while 12% have been forced to beg by their parents. As many as 43% of the beggars are able-bodied persons.

Begging as a phenomenon increased in the state capital as a result of the prolonged drought affecting the agriculture sector in the districts. With able-bodied men and women migrating to construction sites to find work, the old and the infirm are left to their fate. Many of them join the ranks of the destitute in the city.

Hyderabad District Collector Arvind Kumar says that the district administration will provide identity cards and rehabilitate all the beggars within six months.

Once this is done, the administration will strictly enforce the Andhra Pradesh Prevention of Begging Act 1977 to eradicate begging in the city. The Act includes penal provisions like imprisonment up to two years.

The district administration will provide night shelter for homeless beggars in the homes run by various departments.

Children, disabled persons, adolescent boys and girls, men and women, old and infirm persons will be covered under one scheme or the other for their rehabilitation.

The administration will coordinate with various agencies to implement the action plan. The NGO will be involved in the
rehabilitation of beggars.

The SC, ST, BC and Minority Welfare Departments will identify the able-bodied among the beggars who constitute 54% of the alms-seekers and who are ready to avail self-employment schemes to give up begging.

For the aged and infirm, old age pensions will be given and ration cards will be issued for supply of rice under the Annapurna Anna Yojana at Rs 3 per kg.

Children will be admitted in residential bridge schools and adolescent girls will be lodged in homes run by the Women's and Child Welfare Department and provided education and vocational training.

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