GAMES INTEREST: Bengal willin’, not beggars – State mulls taking back 3000 alms-seekers from Delhi

GAMES INTEREST: Bengal willin’, not beggars – State mulls taking back 3000 alms-seekers from Delhi – now to the business of begging, cleanup till when PLUS what about rehabilitation ?!!

Avijit Mal seeks alms outside Nizamuddin Dargah in New Delhi. Avijit hails from Rampurhat in Birbhum - lucrative business to be so far from home, rehabilitation no issue ?!! (Prem Singh)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI

New Delhi, Aug. 9: Bengal isn’t exactly a chooser in this but it is thinking of taking back nearly 3,000 beggars from the capital’s streets.

Delhi wants to banish some 40,000 alms-seekers to their home states before the October Commonwealth Games so it can showcase itself as a world-class city. It has asked the states to do the needful and the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government is warming to the proposal.

“In keeping with the Delhi government’s request, we have decided to take back the beggars who hail from Bengal. A discussion is on to rehabilitate them in vagrants’ homes,” a Bengal government source said.

This won’t be flattering for a Left government but some beggars have made their choice clear: they don’t want to return to Bengal, much like the best and the brightest that fled the state once.

“I have been begging here for a long time; I don’t want to go back. I have to send money to my two children who live in Bengal,” Rustam Gazi, 65, said.

Gazi, who is from Kishorepur in Kulpi, South 24-Parganas, begs outside the Nizamuddin Dargah in New Delhi and sleeps on the pavement.

A frightened Avijit Mal, 25, who too begs outside the dargah, said police were conducting raids.

“The Bengal government will confine us in a destitute home. I don’t want to go anywhere from here,” wailed Mal, a resident of Rampurhat in Birbhum who took to begging six years ago after losing his right hand in an accident.

A survey by the Delhi social welfare department has found that beggars travel to the capital because they get more alms here.

One factor that may bail out the beggars is the enormity of the Bengal government’s mission. “It would be a mammoth task. First, we’ll need help from the Delhi government and NGOs to track the beggars who are from Bengal. We are sceptical about the plan’s success,” the government source said.

Bengal social welfare minister Biswanath Chowdhury sounded unhappy about the Delhi government’s move. He almost drew a parallel with some Maharashtra parties’ campaign against migrant north Indians. “Personally, I don’t support it. It’s very strange… how can one label beggars state-wise? Even beggars are facing discrimination now,” he said.

The Mayavati government has argued on similar lines, a Delhi government source said, adding that Bihar, Haryana and Rajasthan too were reluctant to have their beggars back. “The states are being persuaded to comply,” he said.

The Delhi government survey counted 50,000 beggars in the capital and said 80 per cent of them were from other states. The largest chunk (27.3 per cent) is from Uttar Pradesh, followed by Bihar (17.1) and Haryana (7.2). Bengal is fourth with 5.7 per cent, which comes to 2,850 beggars.

From time to time, Delhi Police round up a large number of beggars and produce them before mobile courts, which send them to government homes. “But all the homes in Delhi are overcrowded, so the states have to take their beggars back,” an official said.

Delhi High Court, too, has ruled that the beggars should be rehabilitated in their native states.

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