HYDERABAD: One ride around the city and we are likely to spot beggars on streets, at signals and at various crossroads. This, despite the recent activity where the Prisons Department along with the GHMC conducted a drive to clear out beggars from the streets.
However, the police department believes that there is no organised beggars mafia in operation in the city.
In their response to the State Human Rights Commission, with respect to a petition filed, ACP Ibrahimpatnam, ACP LB Nagar, ACP Pet Basheerbad and DCP Hyderabad (North Zone) have stated that no beggars mafias exist and the police authorities are on the vigil, monitoring any such activities from taking place.
Prisons department D-G V K Singh, who has been vocal against operations of beggars mafia, when contacted, also said that there is no information about beggars mafias operating in the city. "The last time we got a tip off was around six months ago and we informed the police who took action. But we haven't received any information after that," he said. In that case, some unemployed and youngsters with disabilities were forced to beg, where they had to give back the money to the leader, who would pay them around `200.
However, Achyuta Rao, from Balala Hakkula Sangham, who filed the petition with the SHRC disagrees with the reports and also with V K Singh and asserted that begging mafia is still very much present. He pointed out that the ways of begging may have changed. "Even today, we find children at Jubilee Hills check post and even L B Nagar if not begging, falling on our feet to sell various items. They are desperate to make a sale not because they need food for the day, but there is someone behind them forcing them to bring back certain amount per day," he vouched.
The petition was filed, based on media reports which said that around 14,000 people in the city, including children are victims to this beggars mafia. It also said that children are being forced into this and are being deprived of their childhood.
A report was to be sent to the Commission on April 5. The Commission directed the authorities to ensure that necessary action is taken against these gangs and victims be rehabilitated.
In October 2017, the Prisons Department introduced an activity where those who spot beggars on the roads and turn them to the department will be awarded an amount of `500.
The rehabilitation was to be supported by the GHMC. Children who colour themselves in the role of Gandhi, for instance, during melas and women who are spotted with sleeping babies who are often drugged, he alleged are all part of mafias where they are given one cup of tea and bread for the day and the money earned from begging goes to the one leading the mafia. He suggested that all of them should be rescued and provided with food and shelter. "When the source of money is cut off, it can be stopped," he said.