Eliminate poverty,don’t hide beggars: HC

The Delhi High Court is hardly gung-ho about “Jai Ho”. The judges see the Oscar-wining film’s storyline as,at best,commonplace.

Written by Krishnadas Rajagopal | New Delhi | Published:March 3, 2009 1:54 am

Reveal plan to rid city of begging,says court; Govt says readying new law to replace 50-year-old Bombay anti-begging legislation

The Delhi High Court is hardly gung-ho about “Jai Ho”. The judges see the Oscar-wining film’s storyline as,at best,commonplace. “Slumdog Millionaire may be important for people abroad but not for us,for whom poverty is sadly an everyday sight,” a Division Bench led by Justice Badar Durrez Ahamed said on Monday in reply to a lawyer’s graphic accounts on how the film contained true-to-life scenes about children pushed into begging.

Hearing a petition on the growing number of beggars in Delhi,the Bench said the right formula would be to “eliminate poverty” from the streets,and not “hide” them in a city busy “dressing up” to host the Commonwealth Games next year. Calling begging a “human problem” — “a combined result of poverty and the presence of criminal gangs who exploit the poor” — the court asked the Delhi government’s Social Welfare Department to reveal its plan to rid the Capital of public begging.

In reply,Delhi government’s counsel Mukta Gupta filed a written report annexed with the minutes of an advisory committee meeting held on November 24,2008,which said that a three-member panel has been formed to draft a “new legislation” against begging specially meant for Delhi.

The Capital till date depends on a 50-year-old law borrowed from the tinsel town: the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act,1959.

“The Social Welfare Department felt it better to have a separate law for Delhi,” says minutes of the meeting signed by Joint Director (Social Welfare) B R Singh. “We found that 17 other states have enacted their own laws.”

The document placed before the court says a three-member committee comprising S N Singh (Dean,Delhi University),Mahesh Sharma (District Social Welfare Officer),and S M Ali (Welfare Officer) has been set up for this purpose.

The main report,prepared by Senior Superintendent (Social Defence) R P Kukreti listed various means so far taken to combat begging,primarily the sanction received from Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna for two mobile courts to book beggars. “The Finance Department has approved/sanctioned two mobile courts,” the document states. “The Lieutenant Governor has approved the setting up of the courts with a Special Metropolitan Magistrate,one stenographer and a probationary officer.

“The Social Welfare Department has further invited tenders for hiring 13 vehicles for anti-begging operations in Delhi.”

It also noted that a biometric machine to identify repeat offenders has been set up at the rehabilitation centre in Kingsway Camp. “We also maintain a database since January 2008,” the report said. It promises a “full-fledged” awareness campaign against begging to start within the next three months.

Delhi’s beggar story

2,232 beggars apprehended

1,378 released by court

986 committed/transferred to beggar homes

107 inmates in beggar homes till December 2008

(2008 statistics as per Social Welfare Department)

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