Begging for a solution: Crackdown against beggary proves counterproductive

Published: July 13, 2011
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Constructing a factory solely for the purpose of employiong beggars in the cities could be one of the solutions to this menace.
Photo: Express

Constructing a factory solely for the purpose of employiong beggars in the cities could be one of the solutions to this menace. Photo: Express

FAISALABAD/SIALKOT: 

Tehsil municipal administrations (TMAs) in Sialkot, Faisalabad and Multan have launched a new operation against beggary in the districts. TMA officials recently began apprehending all male beggars and handed dozens of beggars over to police officials.

On Monday, over 200 beggars clashed with police officials in Faisalabad and threw stones and bricks at the Civil Lines Police station. “They can’t just round us up like we are criminals. Since when has begging become a crime in Pakistan?” said Faisalabad resident Malik Khawar. “We will stop begging the moment our government stops begging from the IMF and other foreign countries,” he added.

District officials said that they were facing severe problems in trying to rid the districts of beggary. “Every time we clear them off the streets they return the next day. When we began targeting the men, we saw an influx of women to replace them,” said Faisalabad TMA official Raza Qadri. “The government is right to finally take notice of this menace but we cannot curb this menace by haphazardly removing people off the streets. We need a coordinated campaign in every district and the police needs to be involved,” said TMA official Sadiq, in Multan.

TMA officials in Sialkot, Faisalabad and Multan have already conducted a brief survey that has indicated that the greatest concentration of beggars is found at road intersections, grounds and shopping areas in every district.

“There are areas where women are predominant and one usually views children at traffic intersections. The men are usually seen begging in parks,” said TMA official Qadri. Qadri said that so far the campaign was proving counterproductive. “It is a very good idea in principle but it isn’t working in practice. The more people we take off the streets the more end up replacing them. We need legislation in this regard,” he said.

“They beat up my husband and handed him to the police for asking for alms. The next day my entire family went to his spot to ask for alms. If poor people can’t beg in Pakistan then where do they expect us to go?” said Razia, adding “Our government has no problems begging but we are starving and they want us to pretend we are living in France!”

Several commuters in the districts said that they fully supported the district government’s operation against beggary. “I don’t care how long it takes but we need this to happen. These people have become more and more belligerent. Now they don’t take anything less than Rs10 and once I paid a woman in coins and she threw them in my face and began swearing at me in the street,” said a commuter in Sialkot, Abdullah Hashmi.

Faisalabad administration officials said that despite the intensive drive against professional beggars in the district they were unable to curb the practice.

“We have taken hundreds of beggars into custody but they are always released a few days later. There are no institutions or rehabilitation facilities for these people so they return to the streets,” an official said.

The Social Welfare Department in Faisalabad recently rounded up over 300 professional beggars, including women and children but they were allowed to roam in the markets a few days later. “We did manage to send the children to the Child Protection Bureau (CPB) because the legislation as well as the facility to rehabilitate children allows us to take action but it is much harder to do the same for adults,” said Welfare Department official Rahmat Javed.

“They seem to think they can pick us up and hold us for a day and then we won’t return to the streets. We still don’t have any money and we still have no jobs so we have to return to the streets,” said a beggar in Multan, Aslam.

“They kept me for a day and then let me go. When they asked me if I would return to the streets I told them I would,” Faisal said. “I asked him why and he said ‘I didn’t win the lottery while I was in lock up, did I?” said Saad Khan, a welfare department official in Faisalabad.

The Social Welfare Department chief Asad Kamran claimed that district authorities needed the cooperation of the general public to help identify baggers in their areas.

“Most of all we need people to stop giving them money so they are forced to search for work. The practice continues because they know they can get by without doing anything and begging,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Lubna
    Jul 13, 2011 - 2:26PM

    Beggars are a symptom of a much bigger problem that exists in our society – I don’t see any lasting success possible in getting rid of them.
    Faisalabad is home to some of the richest individuals in Punjab but the city is a dump! these filthy rich have no sense of responsibility to the community they live in, instead, they choose to carry on living in their bubbles…. where is it going to take us?

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  • Sam
    Jul 13, 2011 - 2:31PM

    “We will stop begging the moment our government stops begging from the IMF and other foreign countries,”

    now how does a beggar know about the IMF and other debts?

    also the solution is not to ostracize them but to give them vocational training and develope a champaign for the middle class and get them to stop giving money to beggars…

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  • CB Guy
    Jul 13, 2011 - 3:18PM

    Well i would like it when the police arrests those beggars who sit in the echelons of power. our leaders have turned the whole nation in to beggars. The only difference is that a common beggar would not be able to pocket the money all in his life what these fellows can do in a couple of days.

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  • Mirza
    Jul 14, 2011 - 8:57AM

    @Lubna:
    It is funny that you mentioned the filthy rich people living in that area. Not too long ago there was a blog in ET, which “proved” that Pakistanis are the most charitable nation. Most bloggers were unanimous in that opinion. Of course that was all hogwash and nothing to do with reality; otherwise we would not see the large number of beggars in Pakistan.
    I have travelled in Pakistan (born and raised), India, and other third world Asian countries but did not see any beggars anywhere except Pakistan. In Pakistan I feel like being suffocated by the constant invasion of beggars. They are stationed outside every restaurant and even the carts selling food stuff. They take the fun out of eating out in Pakistan. Their job is to make people feel guilty for even living. Once we give to one beggar then they all follow till we disappear. I have been threatened by the beggars and their curses. I politely tell them if they become nasty that “what can you do for me when you cannot do for yourself and still begging”? People are superstitious and do not understand that it is like their job. When they cannot pray for themselves, how can they pray for us?
    At the risk of being called names, I fell like most people in the country are beggars. From top to bottom, they are all looking for handouts. The number one foreign exchange earner is the money Pakistanis send from abroad. It is good that they take care of the family. However, millions of families are depending upon that money and no other person works due to the foreign money. Same goes for the govt. Even when in Pakistan to see family and friends, everybody expects big things and money both! I have yet to see any relative or friend who has told me that they are doing well by the grace of God. This is not just my personal experience most of my friends here have experienced the same. In particular the siblings in Pakistan take all the cash and property that our parents have left. Their logic is “God has blessed you and you do not need this. We would be praying for you”. We give them lots of money and they pray for our success and it balances/cancels out. Their prayers cannot change their lives and they remain beggars, how can their prayers change my life?
    More to the point the govt should put these beggars to work in the fields, handicrafts and construction. Or alternatively the nation should stop giving in to the professional beggars. However, I doubt that it would change; it is in the very fabric of the society. People want to put America against China for foreign aid as if without the charity Pakistan cannot exist.
    Regards,
    Mirza, USA

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  • Ali S
    Sep 10, 2011 - 8:18PM

    There need to be clear-cut employment opportunities for beggars to distinguish the professionals from the needy – and the truly needy ones often don’t beg; I think the idea of a factory exclusively for beggars to find work is a good idea. The situation is really sad as far as the women and especially children go, who are at risk of all sorts of abuse and addictions. God knows who the children are working for – what I try to do when I see these kids is that instead of giving them money give them food, at least it will feed them and they won’t be spending any of your money on drugs. The women need to be educated about microfinancing options so they can support themselves from home.

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