Following the Goa government example, Pune has also initiated a campaign to make the city beggar free by 26th January 2018.
Under the flagship of the Women and Child Development Department, the state government is working towards making Maharashtra beggar free next year.
The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 criminalizes begging. Not only begging, but funding the beggars with any nominal amount accounts for encouraging begging which is punishable by law.
Throwing light on the effort to make Pune beggar free, Mrs Shubhangi Zodage, Superintendent, Receiving Centre for Beggars says, “The entire process is initiated under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act of 1959. An FIR is made against the people found begging and they are produced before the court.
They are then sent to the Beggar Receiving Centres under a remand period where the probation officer files a detailed report stating whether the person is a genuine beggar or a victim of organised begging; details are collected on their family background, circumstances under which he resorted to begging etc. The court considers and studies the report and then pronounces their verdict or ruling.
The Beggars Receiving Centre at Yerwada that has a capacity of 70 beggars (50 male, 20 female) currently houses 33 adults (19 males, 14 females) including four children. Maharashtra overall has 14 centres, with a proportionate number of receiving homes and home for beggars.
“Beggars found guilty by a court of law will then be sentenced to a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years in the beggar’s home. The detainment is not just for the beggar but also the beggar’s dependents, unless the dependent is a child.
In cases where a child is found to be guilty of begging he/she is forwarded to the courts under the Children Act, 1960, unless the child is below the age of five and has a mother who is being detained and can take care of him/her.
“In some cases, if the person produces a Personal Recognizance Bond stating that he won’t resort to begging again, he shall then be released. The detained people are send to the beggar home where they are rehabilitated. Right from food, clothes, shelter, grooming, medicines, everything is taken care of.
They are even trained to work and given basic education to make them civilised and at par with the society.
“It often happens that once the person who has completed his detention period, returns to begging. In such circumstances the punishment for repeat offences is higher, extending to detention for an indefinite period of time. Some even ask for lifetime detention as they are provided with better facilities at the beggar homes,” she adds.
Zodage explains that since the act has never been revised, it needs to be re-looked to refine and possibly remove the outdated provisions within it.
She feels that since the police department has their hands full, the rehabilitation of beggars is neglected. A special wing appointed by law may help make the city turn beggar free.
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