Beggar population swells as anti-begging Act gathers dust

- Dipak Bayalkoti, Kathmandu

Aug 13, 2014-

Over 50 years have passed since the introduction of the Begging (Prohibition) Act, but neither the government nor the law enforcement agencies have taken steps to implement the Act.  The failure to enforce the law has resulted into a growing beggar population, particularly in the city areas like Kathmandu.

There are more than 5,000 beggars in Kathmandu, according to police estimates. Many of them are young children who took to begging coerced by their parents, says Kumar Karki, deputy superintendent of police at Hanumandhoka. “The problem has turned so serious over the years that some beggars have been found using forceful means to make the member of the public hand them cash. Beggars cursing people for denying them the dole has also become common,” says DSP Karki.

In the old times, it used to be Jogis (Hindu ascetics) who used to beg for alms, but these days people who are physically well are also found begging on the streets.

“These people use various excuses to beg money from the public. Sick loved ones or treatment for some personal illness are common pretexts,” says DSP Karki. “Some of them may have genuine reasons to ask for monetary aid, but one cannot tell which one’s the real case.”   

Narayan Prasad Kafle, spokesperson of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, says begging is a problem directly associated with poverty and unemployment, but one cannot ignore the fact that begging has become an organised trade. “True, factors like unemployment and poverty that could force a person to live off on dole and charity, but there are also cases of adults using children as beggars to earn money. Such trade should be stooped.”  

Sociologists, however, say that enforcing anti-begging law could be difficult in a country like ours. For instance, it is popularly held that Jogis are allowed to beg for alms since they come from religious background and are free to beg under the Vedic tradition. If the authorities decide to round up beggars, then Jogis too must be liable to legal action, argue some sociologists. “Laws must be non-discriminatory and should apply to all” they say.

Published: 14-08-2014 09:43

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