Authorities are probing the death of a 52-year-old beggar who died at the Chembur Beggars’ Home on August 28, two days after he was lodged there following his arrest.
The probe was ordered after inmates alleged that the beggar, Mohammed Bashir Abdul Hasan Ansari, was assaulted inside the home and that he could have died because of the injuries he sustained.
Ujjwal Uke, the principal secretary at the Women and Child Development department, told Newsline he was aware of the incident and had ordered a probe. “I came to know about the incident in the evening. I have asked senior officials to carry out a probe and give a report to me,” Uke said.
Ansari, a native of Aminabad in Uttar Pradesh, was picked up by the Mumbai police from Mahim on August 26 under the Bombay (Prevention of Begging) Act and was sent to the beggars’ home in Chembur.
The inmates of the home reportedly told activists working with beggars that Ansari was hit by another inmate with a plastic rod as a result of which he sustained head injuries. Inmates claimed he was tied and left in the barrack. In the morning on August 28, he was found dead.
“As soon as we got to know about the incident, we informed senior government officials. There is a need to probe this incident further,” Tarique Mohammad Qureshi, coordinator of Koshish, a Tata Institute of Social Sciences field action project on homelessness and destitution, said.
After his death, Ansari’s body was taken to Rajawadi Hospital where a post-mortem examination was conducted on him. Hospital officials said the reason of death was a fatty liver, which could have been due to heavy drinking.
Activists, however, claim the circumstances leading to his death and the injury on his head needed to be probed.
Interestingly, Ansari was to be presented before a court on Tuesday.
“We cannot challenge the post-mortem report. But the circumstances and incident that led to the death need to be probed so that such incidents do not occur again,” Qureshi said.
This is the second incident in a year when an inmate has died inside the Chembur Beggars’ Home.
Senior officials of the Beggars’ Home did not respond to calls.
Apart from being the most deprived and marginalised sections living stigmatised lives on the fringes of our society, beggars in India also face the ignominy of being deemed criminals under a 1959 Act called the Bombay (Prevention of Begging) Act.
Under the Act, anyone having no visible means of subsistence and found wandering about in a public space is deemed a beggar and can be picked up.
There are presently 13 beggar homes in the state with the combined capacity of holding close to 5,000 inmates. There have been questions over the treatment of inmates in such homes and calls for reforms in the way that people picked up under the Act are treated.