Union minister Maneka Gandhi has said there was a need to enact a law on beggary with an emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration of the vulnerable section of the society rather than criminalising the act.
She has urged Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot to bring in a comprehensive legislation to address the issue. In a letter to Gehlot, she said the Act should focus on rehabilitation and re-integration rather than criminalising the already vulnerable section of the population. “Since children cannot be seen in exclusion from their families, the approach should be rehabilitation of the whole family and extending the social protection net to them,” she has said in the letter.
Referring to the recently enacted Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, Gandhi said it identifies child beggars as “children in need of care and protection” and provides for their rehabilitation and re-integration in the society through Child Welfare Committees.
However, in the absence of any central legislation, the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, was extended to Delhi in 1960 which criminalises begging, she said. “It is understood that the anti-begging laws in other states also are derived from the Bombay Act. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this legislation fails to address the casual factors of begging and takes an archaic approach which violates the rights of children and contradicts the protective provisions of Juvenile Justice Act,” she said.
She said that children engaged in begging in urban areas and metropolises like Delhi are one such group who face multiple challenges and struggle everyday for survival, food, water, clothing, shelter and protection. They are exposed to the risk of becoming economically and sexually exploited, enslaved or trafficked.
A survey by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights had found 5,727 children begging in August 2015. The same situation may be prevailing in other metropolitan cities and big towns especially religious places, she said in her letter.