NEW DELHI: Begging may no longer be a criminal offence if a Bill drafted by the government seeking to decriminalise beggary is passed. The Bill offers a life of dignity to the beggars, homeless and others who live in poverty or abandonment.
The draft ‘the persons in destitution (protection, care and rehabilitation) Bill 2015’ looks at the issue as a social menace. Under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, begging is a crime and a person found begging can be sent to a shelter home or even jail without trial.
In the Bill, ‘destitution’ refers to a state of poverty or abandonment, arising from economic or social deprivation and ‘persons in destitution’ include homeless, beggars, people with physical and mental disabilities, the old, infirm and others who are in a state of poverty or abandonment.
The Bill calls for State governments to constitute Outreach and Mobilisation Units in districts and conduct surveys for the purpose of mapping areas and identifying persons in destitution, create awareness among them about the Act and provide them assistance in procuring documents required to avail the benefits of any such scheme or legislation.
There is also provision to establish rehabilitation centres for the care, protection and vocational or skill development training for such people and these centre will be adequately staffed and supported by qualified persons such as doctors, social workers, counselors and vocational training instructors.
The Bill also focuses on establishing separate rehabilitation centres for women and differently-abled destitute and suggests that the existing shelters running for the destitute and homeless to be upgraded in such a manner that it provides comprehensive services for their rehabilitation.
Official figures show that there are 4,13,670 beggars —2.2 lakh males and 1.91 lakh females.