Pestering bunch in Srinagar

Ovais Gora

SRINAGAR

A non-local beggar in action in Srinagar. Photo: Bilal Bahadur
A non-local beggar in action in Srinagar. Photo: Bilal Bahadur

The summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir—known for its beguiling beauty, has been the focal point for aesthetic loving people. But lately, the place is receiving a barrage of non-local beggars—who have ‘intruded’ into the city and are now, pestering people.

Many say scores of beggars from outside have made Srinagar their blissful address. They usually surround the religious places—particularly, mosques and shrines to sponge out the money from people by invoking religious sentiments in them. Other than places of worship, beggars can be seen around hospitals, near traffic signals and hovering around educational institutes.

Imran Fayaz, a college student in Srinagar, says that few days back he along with his mother were visiting a doctor near Iqbal Park when suddenly, a bunch of child beggars aged between 8 to 10 showed up, and started pestering him for money.

“Wherever we go, it is impossible to find a place without beggars,” Fayaz says. “They [beggars] tirelessly hamper our activities on the roads. Whether we go for shopping, work or college, they are always there to vex you.”

Altaf Hussain, a businessman in city centre Lal Chowk, says he has to call police to do away with beggars, pestering people.

“I usually witness these beggars clinging on to the people for the money,” Hussain says. “When I feel that they are crossing limits, I call police to shoo them away.”

One of common reasons reflected by these beggars behind ‘camping and operating’ around Srinagar is: “amiable nature of Kashmiri people.”

“We come here for begging because Kashmiri people are kind-hearted,” a handicapped beggar, Arif ul Rehman says. “I hail from Kolkata and when I would beg for money there, they would give me 50 paisa or if stars are in favour of me, Rs 1 would be given. But here in Srinagar, people give Rs 5-10 without excessive persuasion.”

Dr G N Qasba, Srinagar Municipal Commissioner (SMC) says that his department has done lot of work to check the menace, “We are working with police authorities to contain the influx of non-native beggars.”

In August 2012, the ‘growing’ influx of non-local beggars made authorities to start a rare census in Srinagar. It is immediately not known the final figures of the census. But Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Beggary Act, 1960 prohibits any form of beggary in the state and empowers any police officer to arrest a beggar without any warrant.

But many say, police is seemingly disempowered in this case!

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