The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on Thursday directed municipal bodies in 10 cities across the country to open feeding centres for approximately one lakh beggars in view of the lockdown to check the spread of COVID-19.
The feeding centres are to be opened and run by the municipal corporations of Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Indore, Nagpur, Lucknow and Patna.
The centres will be funded entirely by the Social Justice Ministry. The order comes into effect immediately and will be in effect for the entire duration of the lockdown, till April 15.
“We had initiated a comprehensive plan to end begging in the country which included things like identifying the beggars and eventually rehabilitating them. Each city would’ve been divided into segments which a nodal officer will oversee. Such as Delhi has about 100-120 segments. The nodal officer would supervise the identification of beggars and then develop a plan for them. This scheme was supposed to kick off from April 1 this year. With the spread of COVID-19 and then the lockdown, we have fast- tracked this plan.”
“At the feeding centres, not only will this vulnerable group get meals, but in the process we will also identify them as a part of our overall scheme,’’ Secretary, Social Justice Ministry, R Subrahmanyam, told The Indian Express.
The scheme is to be rolled out in five phases. The first phase would involve mapping the begging hotspots and identifying and enumerating beggars in these cities. In the second phase, the beggars would be convinced to stay at temporary shelters or centres, the third would be to provide medical attention to those in need and the fourth and fifth phases would involve looking at alternative livelihoods, and reuniting them with their families or rehabilitating them in sustainable settlements, respectively.
“The entire cost of the feeding centres will be borne by the Ministry. There is no specific financial allotment yet because we don’t know how much grant will actually be needed,’’ added the Social Justice Secretary. Subrahmanyam said the Ministry has reached out to the transgender community, also vulnerable to COVID-19 as well as the lockdown. “Their normal means of earning have been severely affected by this. The first thing we have asked the transgender community, the transgender welfare boards and the NGOs working with them to do is to identify those who don’t have ration cards. Transgender persons with ration cards should be able to avail the 5 kg rice scheme of the government, but those who don’t won’t have access to that,” said the secretary.
“For both these vulnerable communities, beggars and transgenders, starvation is a real threat under the present circumstances,’’ he added.
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