Why India cannot count its own beggars yet

The ministry of social justice and empowerment is unhappy with the information provided by the states on the figures indicating the number of beggars present in their domains respectively, especially as the ministry feels that this data is not comprehensive and needs verification.

Addressing the crucial issue of preventing and rehabilitating beggars, the ministry will hold its second consultation meeting on beggary on Thursday at Vigyan Bhawan.

Via this initiative, the government has started it's first ever project to record a comprehensive database of beggars in the country. In April 2010, the minister for social justice and empowerment Mukul Wasnik wrote to states and union territories seeking information on the 'incidence of beggary' while only ten states responded by providing this data. Not satisfied by this information provided by the states, the government has asked the remaining states to send in the data as well.

Interestingly, it is Delhi that tops the list with 58,570 beggars flocking the capital, while majority of the states claimed they had minimal or no beggars at all. Even the ministry has questioned the data provided by these states. In fact, the ministry has directed the states to conduct a detailed survey and collect the data on various issues relating to beggary and furnish them to the ministry.

Due to unavailability of data on how many beggars each state has, how their social conditions are and why are they forced to beg there's a huge problem for the ministry which was considering to formulate a model legislation pertaining to beggary.

In fact, the ministry has called a special meeting with state representatives to address this issue and see if the existing laws are sufficient to deal with beggary or a model legislation in the form of a national law is required. Even in the last meeting held on 1 July this issue, the need for a strong database to record number of beggars at national and state level was asserted. In the second meeting too this issue will be revisited as the ministry emphasised that there is 'no firm and authentic data' available on beggary in India.

Its interesting to note that as per a High Court ruling, beggars have been categorised into four categories – 'outright lazy people, addicts, organised beggars, and destitute and those begging out of necessity.'

At present seven anti-beggary laws exist in 20 states and 2 union territories. Also there are several provisions like Section 268: public nuisance of the IPC, Juvenile Justice act 2000, Indian railway act 1989 [Section 144: Prohibition on hawking, etc. and begging] and several others which deal with beggary.
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