Beggary- a major social issue
Authored By- Amit Patel
Keywords- Alms, Unemployment, Anti-begging laws, Rehabilitations, Beggary.
Recently, there has been a great increase in the number of beggars in India. The reasons are multiple such as physical, economic, psychological, etc. This article deals with the laws governing beggary that how the definition of beggary is defined in the arbitrary acts and the functioning of this act. We have also discussed the begging cartel which runs begging as a means of business as to how they manipulate the infants to make money.
Begging simply means to ask for food, money, or something of value (alms) humbly without providing any service. There are many such definitions of begging. The legal definition for begging is having no visible means of subsistence and wandering, about or remaining in any public place in such condition or manner, as makes it likely that the person doing so exist soliciting or receiving money, clothes or other things ordinarily given to a beggar. There are no laws made by the central government concerning the beggary. Whereas, 22 states including union territories have their anti-begging laws. Beggary is a social issue of great magnitude and grave concern in developing countries like India.
Growing Rate of beggary and its reasons
In a recent survey by the Delhi school of social work, they discussed there has been a great increase in the number of beggars in India. The 1931 census showed 16% women as beggars which shot up to 49% in 2001. They're about 10 million street children many of whom beg for their livelihood. There are many reasons for the increasing number of beggars such as the physical factor which concern the handicapped people who are not able to perform other works. Secondly, the economic factor which concerns the unemployment and loss of incomes in developing nations. Thirdly, the social and psychological factors which deal with widowhood, family disorganization, frustration, and the tendency of being alone. The natural calamities also play a big role in the resulting beggary as it leaves them with no home and income.
Legality of begging and anti-begging laws in India
The laws and provisions related to begging in India are highly arbitrary and their implementation is even worse. These provisions are not consistent with the society as it defines the beggars as anyone who is found in the state or manner which implies them as the persons asking for money. The anti-begging squads randomly raid any public places like bus stand, railway stations, movie theatres, temples, and mosques and arrests any person who looks poor and who is not in a proper state and looks homeless.
According to Bombay prevention of begging act, 1959 the provisions of this act criminalises beggary not just in Bombay but also in various other Metro Politian cities. But in the case of Ram Lakhan v State, Delhi High Court gave a landmark judgement in which it was held that the Bombay prevention of begging act, 1959 is unconstitutional in Delhi. It stated that it violates the right to equality (Art.14) and the right to live included in the right to life (Art. 21) of the beggars. The court also criticised the arbitrary nature of the act and the detaining provisions contained in the act.
It is the changing attitude of this country which now watches the beggary as crime, it always existed in our society, and was earlier accepted as a way of life.
Begging as a means of business
Begging has become a big business in India like a big racket and beggars being the puppet of the leaders who run the whole show. There are several sting operations done in the past which revealed all about this racket. The leaders manipulate and then use the beggars, mostly infants and women and divide the territory and allot them a particular territory, then they work in groups and divides the share. Nowadays, it is very difficult to spot a real beggar. Innocent children are getting stuck in this dirty racket.
Steps required in improving the condition of beggars
In countries like India, which is still a developing nation, there has been significant growth in the number of beggars. The central government should frame the laws governing beggary. The main concern of the government should be to eradicate poverty, educate and create employment but apart from that government should also introduce the rehabilitation schemes which have shown positive results in the past. They should be allotted a small portion of land and should impart some skills. Although the government is taking required measures, we as the citizen of India should stop giving the alms as it is our moral responsibility.
It has been always accepted that there have been three basic needs that are food, clothing and, shelter. The right to life is guaranteed in any civilized society. That would take within its sweep the right to food, the right to clothing, the right to decent environment, and a reasonable accommodation to live in. It is the responsibility of the state to provide this to every citizen of its nation the state should keep this in mind while framing policies. There is also a dire need to come up with an act dealing with beggary at the central level which is not arbitrary.
Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, § 2(d). Ram Lakhan v State, 137 (2007) DLT 173. INDIA CONST. art. 14. INDIA CONST. art. 21. People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India & Others, AIR 1997 SC 568.