Traffic signals: New address of beggars

Motorists irked; Police, SMC look the other way

Notwithstanding the ban on begging in the City, traffic signals have emerged as hub of beggars, mostly non-locals, who hang around at the busy junctions and irk motorists.
 The moment, the traffic signal turns red, beggars rush out weaving between the traffic lanes, seeking alms from the motorists.

 While some try to avoid beggars by keeping the side windows shut, the strategy doesn’t seem to be working all the times.  “Begging for alms they constantly knock the window with coins and if you don’t pay they don’t mind scratching your car,” complained GM Khan a Soura resident.
 This modus operandi has been on rise at the busy junctions including those near the High Court, Civil Secretariat and other high security routes where presence of police is often vital. This way police and other concerned including the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) seem to be looking the other way. Observers said the SMC Health Officer was equally  bound to keep check on such activities.

 Mohan a beggar from Maharashtra said he has been coming to Kashmir for the past around a decade. He said earlier it was mostly the marketplaces where alms could be sought.
 “But installation of traffic signals came as a blessing for us as this has always been our preferred spot for begging around the country,” he said adding his group from outside state introduced begging at the traffic signals. “We were used to it in other states but seeking alms here is much easier than elsewhere in the country because of favorable weather,” he said.
 But begging is not a haphazard exercise for the non-local beggars as they have divided traffic signals among themselves.  They however complained that their counterparts from Kashmir “don’t adhere to allocation of traffic signals.”
 Irked by the beggary menace the civil society has often picked up the issue with the concerned. Observing the menace was brining disrepute for the tourism sector Kashmir Chamber of Commerce  Industries President Shiekh Ashiq said the KCCI many times apprized the authorities about the gravity of the problem. “But results were rarely visible,” Ashiq told .

 Legal experts have been saying that beggary is prohibited at public places. Prominent lawyer and Senior Advocate Bashir Ahmed Bashir has been frequently highlighting the issue for the past few years.  “We have a law enacted way back in 1960 called as J&K Prevention of Beggary Act. Besides other places begging has been specifically prohibited on public places under section 2 of the Act,” he said.
 “It has been further provided that for begging purposes a beggar will not exhibit  any sore, wound, injury, deformity or disease,” the lawyer added.
 “This is a cognizable offence and any police officer under Section 4 can arrest the beggar without any warrant and the offence is punishable from one year to three years by summary trial,” he said.
 Civil society has been arguing that “If an individual can be detained for protection of political order why can’t these beggars be detained for protection of social order?”

 A police official said sometime back a daylong drive was conducted against beggary and that around a dozen of them were booked. “But they keep coming back… How can we help it,” he said.

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