By Hamza Shahid
Lahore Beggars House in-charge Rubina Shehzadi said they would crackdown on city beggars during the holy month of Ramazan and help them rehabilitate and train to earn a livelihood.
While talking to The Educationist she said Lahore Beggars House has the capacity to take care of 100 beggars, however, last year (2016) they accommodated around 207 beggars.
When asked who bring beggars to the House, she said district officers arrest and bring beggars and later they themselves got them bail out.
In the holy month of Ramazan the number of baggers are increased in the cities including Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar etc. These baggers are professionally trained. They are given targets by their contractors and managers so they can earn maximum out of their ‘business’. Beggars do know very well how to exploit the needs and weaknesses of the people, that’s is why their begging appeals change from time to time and place to place.
Some beggars exploit people to their maximum and do not move away until they get some alms. Article 3 of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees that the state shall ensure elimination of all forms of exploitation.
Mostly people adopt this profession because they think that its easy way to earn money. Today the baggers are mostly found on public places like, markets, streets, roads, shrines, religious places of worship, historical places, railway stations, bus stops and places of tourist interest and parks.
They are present in a large number in markets. They make sentimental cries and beg in the name of religion and morality. Some of them are quite healthy but they pose to be sick. There are some others whose arms or legs are broken by the gang leaders. They sit on carts pulled by some strong and healthy men. Some of them creep and crawl on the road. Baggers have many types, some of baggers are paralyzed, some of are quite and healthy but they pose to be sick, some of them are drugs addicted, some of disabled.
There are only a few beggars who are genuine and non-professional. They are really needy and poor people. Some of them are widows and others are old, weak and disabled persons who cannot work.
They earned a lot of money in per day. Baggers are handover that money to the head of mafia and some of earn for themselves. A lot of beggars are work under the mafia. They are restricted under this mafia. Beggars are restricted to earn specific amount of money like 500-1500 to thousand rupees per day and if they are not able to earn this specific money they are beaten by the head of mafia. This community is involved in crimes of kidnapping and they use under age children for their profession. This mafia is exploiting the children. If someone takes that money to his home, he will be punished. Some baggers are affected with some painful treatments. In Pakistan a most of children are missing each year. The children are forced to work for baggers mafia. In public place a lot of bagger are found. As begging starts with poverty and unemployment.
Kids are considered an effective tool by beggars, especially women beggars. They fight with each other on who’ll take the baby. The mafia generally makes kids, women, paralyzed people and old men to beg and collect money.
Baggers have many types, some of baggers are paralyzed, some of are quite and healthy but they pose to be sick, some of them are drugs addicts, some of disabled and some of child beggars. This scenario raised many questions in my mind. Why these innocents are suffering with these tragic lives? Why no one is taking any action against the real culprits? What is the future of these forced child beggars?
Some of the political parties are the big supporter of these mafias. If they don’t support them and why they don’t took action against them?
According to the Section 7 of the Vagrancy Act 1958, the police have power to stop begging. Even though begging is illegal in the country since 1958 according to West Pakistan Vagrancy Ordinance 1958, the law could not be enforced with a massive increase in the numbers of beggars since last decades.
According to the Child Protection & Welfare Bureau their Legal Section comprises of Legal Officers who supervise prosecution accused of special offences relating to the destitute and neglected children as defined in Punjab Destitute and Neglected children’s (PDNC) Act. The legal officers also produce rescued children in court for obtaining legal custody in the best interest of the child. The Legal section had got legal custody of 3071 children in the Financial Year 2014-15. The legal section of Child Protection & Welfare Bureau has lodged 11 FIRs against different person involving in different cases against children under section 34, 35, 37, 38 and 40 of PDNC Act. Total fine collection through conviction was Rs. 74, 900/- under PDNC Act.
Ihtisham, an 11-year old, who was begging near the traffic signal of Barket Market, Lahore says, “My mother is ill at home that’s why I have to come here to beg. I still remember the pain in eyes of his boy when I was talking to him.”
There is an alarmingly high rate of street beggars, especially in urban cities.
However, in some parts of Pakistan, this is not a problem. There are no baggers in Hunza, Gilgit-baltistan. The people of Hunza have always tried to ensure quality education for their children. The district of Hunza-Nazar has an almost 97% enrollment rate. (KADO) this NGO in Gilgit-Baltistan is significantly responsible forthe lack of beggars. (KADO) provides training programmes in various handicrafts it particularly focuses on women and differently abled. Hunza is a close knit community which means people are more likely to get financial help. Many NGOs are working against street begging in Pakistan. They are educating the people against street begging practice.
But the same solution cannot apply to the big cities because the problem lies with the Street Mafia. We need to come up with new strategies. To prevent the exploitation of the disadvantaged.