Friday, May 14, 2010

You'll see no more begging bowls in Bangalore

You'll see no more begging bowls in Bangalore

Clearing the city of people who live on alms is not an impossible mission

Hemanth Kumar

The recent drive to round up beggars from the streets of Bangalore and pack them off to the Beggars' Rehabilitation Centre near Magadi Road had evoked both appreciation and cynicism from residents. However, the drive to make Bangalore beggar-free appears to be turning into a serious initiative with a legislature panel on social welfare headed by Mudigere MLA MP Kumaraswamy visiting the rehabilitation centre on Thursday. He spoke to Hemanth Kumar on the issue.

Is it really possible to make Bangalore India's first beggar-free city?
It is possible. The Central Committee of Rehabilitation is doing a good job despite resource constraints. The drive against beggary a month ago is reflected on the main roads of Bangalore like MG Road, which are now beggar-free. We have rounded up about 3,000 beggars in the last two months. The drive will be intensified.

What happens to the people you round up once they are released from the rehabilitation centre? Don't they get back to the streets?
About 90% of the beggars rounded up are from other states. Most of them are from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. Now I have asked the rehabilitation centre to deport these beggars to their native states in cooperation with the concerned states so that they could be rehabilitated in their native states. Last month, we sent about 50 beggars to Chennai. For the native beggars, they would be provided vocational training so that they can lead a life of dignity. I have also sought to explore possibilities of extending bank loans to them, so that they can set up small businesses.

What reforms will be taken up to improve the condition and the functioning of the rehabilitation centre?
We have suggested the upgradation and modernisation of vocational training. Some new trades will have to be added, keeping in mind job opportunities. This apart, we have also recommended a hike in their daily wages and improvement in the diet. The inmates could soon expect to have non-vegetarian food too, at least twice a month. At present, there is just one doctor at the centre. We want to have at least three. We are also upgrading the facilities at rehabilitation centres in other major cities in the state.

How will you mobilise funds for the purpose?
We need about Rs23 crore to improve the functioning of the rehabilitation centre. Right now, we are getting about Rs9 crore. Though the urban local bodies like BBMP are levying a Beggars' Rehabilitation Cess of 3.5% on property tax, it is not being transferred. Mysore City Corporation alone owes about Rs35 crore. We will take up the issue with the state government to ensure prompt transfer of the cess to Rehabilitation Centres to upgrade them. Once that happens the campaign to round up beggars from streets could be further intensified and a better future for them could be scripted.

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