No impact of beggar rehabilitation program
Golam Mostafa Jibon: Though, the government has announced several parts of the capital city Dhaka as beggar free, practically whole city has turned into a city of beggars since the onslaught of Corona pandemic. Besides, lack of adequate job facilities, constant price hike of essential commodities and poor initiative of the governmentin this regard have forced many poor and poorest to sit on the way for the alms.
Though, the overall situation is known to all, there is no headache of the government in this regard, even many projects including beggar rehabilitation project are yet to see the light of day due to massive corruption and irregularities. Consequently, nuisance by the beggars is continuously increasing in different streets in the capital. Not only that, many of the beggars are getting involved with different types of crimes including snatching, robbery, stealing and even kidnapping. In contrary, sufferings of people are mounting, while coming on the streets.
As soon as the red light of the traffic signal is on, innumerable beggars of different ages including children, teenagers and elderly men and women surround various vehicles including private cars and motorbikes to seek alms.
While searching the reasons, many said, the number of professional beggars has increased in the city’s small and big markets, shopping malls, entertainment centers, bus-launch-train stations and mosques compared the previous periods. The group of beggars who went from house to house for begging alms has now become longer on streets. The city dwellers are now restless due to their oppression. However, there are allegations that the money allocated for the beggar rehabilitation project is being shown as spend every year. But, practical scenario of the beggars is completely different in the capital.
According to responsible sources, the Prime Minister himself recently expressed dissatisfaction over the increase in beggars. She urged the concerned ministry to focus on rehabilitation of beggars and alternative employment.
At the same time, it was directed to find out the reasons behind the failure of the project as expected.
The Ministry of Social Welfare, which is in charge of implementing the project, claimed that, they are always active in rehabilitating to the beggars. But, the project is stumbling due to poor allocation by the government.
There is complained that, the money allocated for the beggar rehabilitation is being misused through massive corruption and irregularities. The money is being spent in various ways without proper rehabilitation. Due to this, the number of beggars is not decreasing, but also increasing.
Experts said, there are several other important reasons behind the increase in the number of beggars in the city. There is a powerful syndicate behind the rising of beggars.
The syndicate members are involved with recruiting the poor and elderly peoplein begging. Disabled people, children and adolescents are their main target.
The syndicate members force them to engage in begging. In this field, some hired beggars especially women are seen carrying children in their laps, while some of them are walking on the road disguising as cripples. However, a large part of their earnings has to be handed over to the main leaders of the syndicate.
There is further allegation that, such activities go randomly under the shelter of law enforcement agencies as they get share of this heinous jobs.
On the other hand, a source of the detectives said that women, children and physically challenged beggars are also being used for selling drugs. In addition, information has been found that they are being used for drug trafficking in the border areas. Meanwhile, several drug trafficking beggars have also been arrested by the law enforcers several times.
Crime experts said, the first thing to stop the begging is to launch a crackdown on the syndicate.
An official of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police said that, they have received information that, Yaba is being sold by various physical challenged beggars including blind, dumb and lame.
They have already identified several spots for selling drugs with disabilities. Secret operations are being carried out there.
Men, women and children are selling drugs in the guise of beggarsat different spots in the capital including Abdulhahpur, House Building, Azampur, airport, KarwanBaza’ar, Farmgate, Shahbagh, Panthapath, Green Road, Gulistan, Paltan, Motijheel and nearby different flyovers. Drug addicts are collecting different sorts of drugs from them without any hindrance. The list of buyers ranges from rickshaw pullers to children from wealthy families.
According to the locals, the drug business is going on under the police shelter. So no one is daring to stop this work.
Sources said, under the control of the beggar syndicate, begging trade of around Tk 20 crore is taking place in the capital every day. The syndicate leaders are regularly controlling 50,000 beggars as well as managing to 1.5 lakh seasonal beggars. Most of the seasonal beggars are being hired from Mymensingh, Kishoreganj, Netrokona, Jamalpur, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Faridpur, Madaripur, Manikganjand Tangail districts. Huts of several slums including Mirpur Diabari embankment, Baunia embankment, Gazaribagh embankment, KamrangirChar, Mohammadpur embankment, ShanirAkhra and Abdullahpurare used for their stay. The syndicate leaders determine their begging spots in the capital on the basis of specific commission.
According to the relevant sources, the number of beggars in the country is claimed to be 2.5 lakh, but the actual number is 7 to 8 times high.
The number is now near to 20 lakhs. Of them, there are more than half a million professional beggars in the capital alone.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the number of poor people in urban and rural areas is increasing due to the Corona. Before Corona, the number of unemployed in the country was 21 percent, but now it has come to about 42 percent. The procession of beggars is getting longer due to terrible unemployment.
Sociologists said that, Corona has reduced the income of people of different classes and professions. The people have become poorer from poor and low income. Many are spending their days with the help of others due to lack of job opportunities. On top of this, due to the abnormal rise in the prices of daily food items, a large number of people have to take to the streets just to survive.
It is learned that the next budget has taken initiative to increase the allocation in this sector 5 times. The government has set a target of rehabilitating 3,000 beggars in the current budget. Tk 6 crore is allocated for this. But in the revised budget this allocation is being increased by Tk 24 crore to a total of Tk 30 crore. It is hoped that at least 15,000 beggars will be rehabilitated.
Additional Secretary (Planning, Development and Law) of the Ministry of Social Welfare Saiful Islam said,”Economic situation of many people has deteriorated due to Corona pandemic. A new program is planned to help beggars. Through this program, all the beggars will be brought under social security in phases. For this, an initiative has been taken to increase the allocation in this regard in the revised budget.”
Sociologists said, simply increasing the allocation for the beggar rehabilitation project without resolving the main crisis is not a solution.
For example, a large portion of those who have been rehabilitated in the past at government expense have returned to their old professions.
The investigation into the reasons why the beggars do not want to come under government rehabilitation claims that the people involved have got some sensational information.
According to them, the income from begging is higher than other general occupations. Although, begging is not recognized as a profession, its social base is quite strong. There is no risk. If someone can raise hand by sacrificing dignity and social shame, he or she will be able to continue the begging. In addition, the assistance provided for the rehabilitation of beggars can be saved in some way, but it becomes difficult to save for the future. But there is an opportunity to save through begging. Several senior officials of the Ministry of Social Welfare have unhesitatingly admitted that the rehabilitated beggars are returning to their old professions.
They said that, more than one initiative has been taken to prevent begging and rehabilitate the beggars. Every time this initiative has failed. To rehabilitate the beggars, Tk 5,000 was given each for pulling rickshaws and vans and carrying small businesses.
But, they sold rickshaws and vans. It also costs cash. They go to other areas and beg again. The beggar rehabilitation project failed. Legal experts said that, the use of ‘vagrant control law’ to stop begging is not working. Why not? There is ambiguity on the question of rehabilitation in the law to control vagrants. This is a big reason for the increase in the number of professional beggars.
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