They were literally swept off their feet, bundled into police vehicles and shifted to police stations, yet the beggars re-surface with more strength every time.
Despite launching a crackdown against the beggars a few days ago, the police have not been able to control the menace, largely fail to provide a reprieve to the public flocking to the markets for Eid shopping.
The beggars have gone up in their demands for alms, cleverly cashing in on generosity in the month of Ramazan. Professional beggary is nothing new to the Federal Capital, however, the number of beggars sharply increase right from the outset of the holy month of Ramazan. They fill up the markets, traffic signals and public parks in huge numbers.
“It is unbelievable. They openly ask you for more than Rs20 or even Rs50 sometimes,” said Atiq Ahmed Khan, a businessman who was shopping with his family in the busy super market. He wondered how the beggars’ number had swelled in a matter of days before Eid.
The police on Wednesday arrested more than a dozen beggars from different areas of the city and put them behind bars. More than half a dozen were arrested from Missile Chowk on the Expressway by the Koral police. They were also arrested from the parking areas in Blue Area and other traffic junctions in the city while the problem still persists in markets and parks where police had less presence and minimum focus.
“They are mostly children from a single family who beg along with their parents at different places and at the end of the day earn a handsome amount of money,” said a police official. He said most of these beggars come from Rawalpindi and its’ peripheries.
The arrested child beggars are shifted to Child Care Centres as they cannot be sent to jail with adults, said Captain (R) Illyas, the Superintendent of Police City Circle. The adults are presented before the court and are sent to jail under 9/10 Beggary Act.
However, an official at a police station said they are rarely sent to jail or are booked. “In most cases, they are kept at the police station for some time and are released after a bit of thrashing and threats,” he added. The undeterred and the most stubborn of them are sent to jail but are mostly released on bail from the court, the official added.
They irritate almost everyone yet they manage to extract money in alms from most of the people. “Most of them are professionals so they do not deserve to be given money,” said a visibly irritated Abeera who had refused to oblige a good number of beggars who surrounded her the moment she stepped out of a shop.
“I do not understand why the police do not arrest them. They roam freely and have become a nuisance for people” said Muhammad Zahid, a salesman at a garments shop in Jinnah Super market.
Whether it is the lack of will to control the menace or lack of planning on the part of police and the city administration, the general public continues to suffer at the hands of adhesive beggars whose number keeps swelling with each passing day as Eid approaches.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2011.