SRINAGAR, Aug 11: Pestered over their growing influx, the authorities have initiated a rare census to ascertain the number of beggars in summer capital Srinagar to, what they say, will help in “managing and to control” their population.
Police have started rounding-up groups of non-local beggars on the instructions of the divisional administration to profile them on the basis of their location, age, gender and affiliation with any group or gang.
“Their number is spreading like wild fire. And there is not a single place or institution in Srinagar where they can’t be seen particularly in Ramadhan. We are receiving an increasing number of complaints from the people,” said Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Baseer Khan.
“We have started enumerating them to ascertain their spread,” he said.
Known for its generosity, Kashmir has been attracting beggars from outside the state for the past some years owing to a decline in violence in the region. Moreover, an even increasing number of alms-seekers flock to the valley in view of the Ramadhan – when muslims give charity more generously.
This month, as these beggars swooped the markets, educational institutes, mosques and shrines of the capital, residents took to streets in the posh uptown areas wanting the government to intervene. “Let the government decide what it wants: residents or beggars?” they raised slogans.
Although Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Beggary Act, 1960 prohibits any form of beggary empowering any police officer to arrest a beggar without any warrant, these alms-seekers mostly women carrying infants in rags and physically challenged children are a common sight.
“Arresting them won’t solve the problem. We are mulling a rehabilitation policy for them. Besides the further influx of these non-local beggars will be controlled,” said Khan.
Hence unknown in the valley, majority of these beggars have installed makeshift slums on highway coming into the valley.
Police as well as residents believed that their unrestricted flow has resulted in rise of crime rate across the valley particularly thefts, drug trafficking, eve-teasing and other immoral activities.