During lockdown in April, male beggar aged 50 was found unconscious on a footpath in the jurisdiction of Azad Maidan police station. As per the police the man who is a beggar was believed to be dead because of coronavirus. However, once the body was discovered, the cops asked the pesticide staff to spray the body and sent it for post-mortem. Clarifying the doubts, zonal DCP Sangramsingh Nishandar stated the death of the beggar was not due to coronavirus. Now amid lockdown if you go on Mumbai streets, you will find no beggars around, the big question where they have gone and who is taking care of them?
BMC has made arrangements for beggar homes and shelters but so far, no beggars turned out to these shelters. There are many beggars on the streets having various deceases and mutilated bodies, they come in contact with travelers and tourists too. These people can be the carriers of virus in future, so far, no such mechanism where beggars are taken for COVID-19 test, or quarantined somewhere.
The social justice and empowerment ministry has asked the civic bodies in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Indore, Patna, Nagpur and Lucknow to start the feeding programme. Ministry secretary R. Subrahmanyam said the Centre also planned to rehabilitate beggars by providing them skill training, shelter and education for their children.
“We have plans for a comprehensive rehabilitation scheme for beggars from next month,” Subrahmanyam said.
Subrahmanyam added: “In the current situation of lockdown to check the spread of COVID-19, many beggars would be facing difficulties in getting food. As a precursor to our comprehensive plan, the feeding programme will be carried out (now).”
The 2011 population census had counted 4.13 lakh beggars and vagrants in the country. Most of them were found in cities and towns. Under the rehab plan, the civic authorities will engage NGOs to identify beggars through a survey. NGOs will take the beggars to the existing shelter homes. The civic bodies will build new shelter homes if the existing ones aren’t enough. A shelter home will accommodate up to 100 beggars. In spite of all these provisions, no one knows where the city beggars disappeared and where they are sheltered.