Authorities sit on begging menace in Srinagar

The beggars are often seen working in small groups having at least one amputated person and carrying newborn babies.
The beggars are often seen working in small groups having at least one amputated person and carrying newborn babies. Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Srinagar: Failure of authorities to check begging menace is causing inconvenience to people in the summer capital.

A distressing trend has emerged among these beggars plaguing the streets of Srinagar—the exploitation of children. They use newborns and young children as pawns, beggars tug at the clothes of passersby, emotionally manipulating them into parting with their money.

"The most alarming aspect is that these young children, who should be attending school at their age, are being exploited for begging, either by their parents or by unscrupulous agencies who have turned begging into a means of earning money. The authorities, instead of maintaining constant vigilance, seem indifferent to the issue," said Ali Mohammad, a local.

He said that he has witnessed trucks transporting these beggars in the morning and evening, suggesting the existence of a possible organised begging racket. "There might be a mafia behind it," he said.

These beggars have taken up temporary shelters in makeshift sheds scattered throughout the city, accompanied by their family members. Shopkeepers, who bear witness to these distressing scenes told Greater Kashmir that these beggars are a ubiquitous presence on busy city streets, near diagnostic centres, eateries, and traffic signals.

They leave no passerby untouched, relentlessly seeking money from anyone who crosses their path.

Nadiya Ahad, a college student, voiced her concerns, saying that “Srinagar seems to be the only place where the begging menace persists.”

"There are more than 50 beggars on just one stretch. We are now living in fear. If we refuse to give them money, they chase us and defame us," she said.

Dr. Khair ul Nissa, Chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee, Srinagar said that they have undertaken three drives, resulting in the rescue of 16 children.

"These drives were conducted in Hyderpora, Rambagh, and Parimpora. Most of the cases involved individuals engaged in begging, while some were locals. We will continue these efforts to combat child labour," she said.

Dr. Nissa added that the recent drives have yielded positive outcomes, as the children who used to beg near traffic signals are no longer seen.

"While we provide warnings to the parents, we are unable to file FIRs against them. After rescuing these children, we ensure their rehabilitation. However, there is still more work to be done," she said.

Dr Nissa also pointed out that those involved in criminal activities and begging are exploiting minors for their own gains. "These individuals find it easy to prey on children. Additionally, begging remains a significant problem, and we are actively addressing it through drives and the rescue of children in street situations," she said.

Additional District Commissioner (ADC), Srinagar, Syed Shabir said that the district administration will definitely look into the matter.

"It is very unfortunate that even children are getting involved in begging. We will look into this matter," he said.

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