Beggars Swarm City, Towns; Govt. Unconcerned

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Srinagar – Even as most people in the Muslim majority society of Kashmir are fairly enthusiastic in offering alms and charities to the less fortunate of the populace, the presence of professional beggars, both local and non-local, in the capital city and elsewhere in the valley has emerged as a major nuisance on the streets.

In spite of beggary being prohibited under the law, the authorities seldom make an effort to curb what has assumed the import of a menace with the passage of time. There is hardly any public place or thoroughfare in the city and in most towns across the valley, where beggars do not follow people like their shadow.

Curiously, most beggars are non-locals who have descended on the valley, particularly in the capital city, along with their women folks and children, who surround passers-by at every street corner, crossing, footpath, footbridge, park, bus stand and even outside ATMs. Many of them indulge in door-to-door begging in city and town localities. 

While the common people complain of non-local beggars having virtually taken over most public places to hinder their movement, the traders and shopkeepers feel the presence of beggars severely affected their business.

“Beggars are always on the prowl, standing near the shops, outside fast food restaurants, ice cream parlors, at the traffic signals and elsewhere. When vehicles stop there, they start knocking the cabs. They do so until they are given some money. It is humiliating when beggars literally pull your legs. It is an awkward situation when their children with half-naked bodies encircle you,” says Abid Hafiz, a university student.

Shopkeepers around the city centre, Lal Chowk, blame the authorities for their failure to curb the growing menace in spite of being sufficiently armed with laws.

“The non-local beggars outside prominent shops, fast food joints and ice cream parlors at Regal Chowk and Residency road pounce on the shoppers at will. Many costumers avoid coming to our shops due to the presence of beggars,” says a shopkeeper, Abdul Rauf.

Senior advocate, Bashir Ahmad Bashir, who has repeatedly pleaded against the swelling number of non-local beggars, believes there is, “some lack of coordination among the enforcement officials. The authorities here easily save their skin by expressing their inability to act due to limited power and jurisdiction. However, there is need to involve the Social Welfare Department, Municipal Corporation, police and even traffic authorities to curb the menace and save people from inconvenience.

When contacted, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation commissioner, Dr G N Qasba, said, “We have done a lot regarding this in the past and we will do it again.” Reacting to the reports of lack of coordination among various government agencies, he said, “We work in close coordination with police authorities.”

However, admitting there were some “problem” crossings in the city, Dr Qasba assured that the SMC would shortly undertake a survey to identify such spots. “The civic body will also start a weeklong campaign in coordination with police next week and the people will definitely witness substantial results on ground,” he added.

Talking to Kashmir Observer, inspector-general of police, S M Sahai, said there were a few hurdles. “However, I will speak with the field officers to know the situation,” he said.

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