//Social Welfare Department expresses concern over lack of police support

Social Welfare Department expresses concern over lack of police support

Sangeeth Kurian, Hindu, Jan25, 2006

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Social Welfare Department has expressed its displeasure over the lack of initiative on the part of the police in implementing the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 in the State.

According to Social Welfare Department joint director K.K. Mani, the Director-General of Police had issued a circular in July last to all Police Commissioners directing them to conduct frequent raids in factories and other hazardous places of work in coordination with the department to rescue children working there.

"However, till date there has not been even a single raid," alleged Mr. Mani.

The circular, issued after a three-day State-level training programme for police officers organised by the department, had also called for the setting up of special juvenile police unit in each district, apart from arranging periodic review meetings.

According to the joint director, an effective implementation of the Act is crucial in preventing the growing population of child beggars in the State.

As per the Act, whoever employs or uses a juvenile or child for the purpose of begging shall be imprisoned for three years with fine. In fact, a survey on the `socio-economic background of beggars in the State’ conducted by the Union Ministry of Welfare in association with the Research Institute, Rajagiri College of Social Sciences, Kalamassery in 1998 in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode showed that juvenile beggars constitute around 20 per cent of the total beggar population. "The group can be weaned away from begging through proper intervention and rehabilitation," said Mr. Mani.

However, an area of concern according to him is the growing number of people from the State who are taking to begging. "Begging has become a convenient vocation with the average monthly earning of a beggar estimated to be over Rs.1,000 per month," he said.

(A survey conducted in 2003 by the NSS unit of the Madras School of Social Work (MSSW) estimated the average daily earnings of beggars in Chennai to be Rs.3.25 lakhs.)

And like all other professions, begging is also competitive and involves considerable work and planning. Pleading, exhibiting wounds, displaying pictures of various Gods, and singing are some of the methods adopted to solicit alms. The places most frequented by beggars are religious institutions, pavements, residential areas, railway stations, hotels, cinemas, hospitals, marriage halls and traffic signals.

The once popular belief that Malayali beggars comprise only a small section of the beggar population too is changing. Today, nearly 35 per cent are Malayalis with a good number of them being senile and infirm.

According to Mr. Mani, `second generation issues’ such as increased life expectancy and rise in nuclear families in the State are some of the major factors that contribute to the growing population of `Malayali’ beggars.

"The number of old and infirm who are dependent on their families are on the rise in the State. This has upset the socio-economic balance forcing the old to fend for themselves," he said. "Unfortunately we do not have any schemes or programmes to address the issue. The Government should develop an additional support system for the old and the infirm by providing them with the necessary medical assistance and food," Mr. Mani added.