Srinagar turning into a beggar’s paradise

SRINAGAR — Dog menace apart, people in the city of Srinagar are facing yet another nuisance in the form of non-local beggars who have taken positions at various important points in the city, especially in the commercial hub, Lal Chowk.

Invoking the Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Beggary Act, 1960, the government imposed a ban on begging in 2018. An order issued in this regard by Deputy Commissioner Srinagar directed police to arrest any person found soliciting alms in public and at religious places or other private premises.

However, from Lal Chowk to Mughal Gardens, along the banks of the world-famous Dal Lake, hundreds of beggars could be seen begging. The pestering beggars have made the movement of people on the roads difficult. These beggars move fearlessly, catching many pedestrians off guard and are often seen pestering people to succumb to their demands even as policemen watch them.

While men usually prefer to remain away from the city and beg in small towns, women along with their children beg in the city.

The traders around the commercial hub Lal Chowk blame the government for its failure to curb the growing menace of begging. “Due to the fear of beggars, sometimes customers avoid visiting our showrooms as they (beggars) irk them. These beggars demand money in such a way that it seems like somebody is taking back his/her money forcibly from a borrower,” said Nazir Wani, who owns a showroom on posh Residency Road.

A non-local girl, who was seen begging outside Pratap Park, said she came here along with her father. “I am a Muslim. I was studying at a local Madrassa in my village in Rajasthan. A Kashmiri, we call him contractor, told my Papa to come to Kashmir for a job. The contractor took Rs 5000 from us and brought us here. We don’t know where he (contractor) is now. We are now begging here as we have no other work to do,” she said.

“The un-hygienic living pattern of migrant beggars is another concern as it results in the spread of communicable and infectious diseases. Wherever the migrant beggars get settled, the atmosphere of that area gets polluted by the waste,” Wani complained.

A rough survey shows around 100 non-local beggars, most of them children, are stationed at various points from Regal Chowk to Amira Kadal. Most of them are from Rajasthan and its adjoining states.

“I try to avoid them on roads but they operate in groups and if one lets you go, another catches hold of you,” said one Mudasir Ali, pointing towards a group of beggars at M.A Road.

In addition to the non-local beggars, these days many non-locals carrying receipt books can be seen collecting donations in the name of building Masjids and Madrasas. “I am collecting donations for a Masjid to be built in Uttar Pradesh,” said a man, who introduced himself as Umar from Bulandshahar in Uttar Pradesh.

Asked what made him come to Kashmir, he said, “I had heard that Kashmiris are generous and in the past month, I have come to know they really are.”

Srinagar administration admits existence of beggars’ mafia

Admitting the existence of the beggars’ mafia within the district, the district administration Srinagar on Monday said that action is being taken against the people who are found soliciting alms in public places.

As per the news agency Kashmir News Observer (KNO), talking to reporters on the sidelines of the function here at Nishat, Deputy Commissioner (DC) Srinagar, Muhammad Aijaz Asad said that the health care infrastructure in the district is best compared to the rest of Jammu and Kashmir.

He said that even the Public Health Centres (PHCs) here are far more advanced than other parts, however, added that some complaints are being received from the health care facilities and immediate action is being taken for the wellbeing of people.

Asked about the presence of beggars despite the ban on begging, DC admitted the existence of the beggars’ mafia here. “Action was and is being taken against them,” he said.

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