“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Proof that wealth among Srinagarites is resulting in some undesirable consequences

Srinagar Turns Into Beggars’ Capital

Shahnawaz Majid (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: Srinagar city is fast turning into the ‘capital of beggars’ as professional mendicants from different parts of Kashmir valley besides hordes from outside states are out there begging in the city.

As has been the precedent, with mercury scorching the plains in mainland India, the beggars make a beeline to comparatively pleasant vale, escaping not only the heat but also making a ‘fortune’.

Here they cash in on the “soft-heartedness” of the Kashmiris and seek alms in every market, shopping center and traffic intersections of Srinagar.

The posh up-markets of Karan Nagar and Residency Road seem to be favourite places for them. Men, women, children, including even minor girls, and some with acute, or at time acute-looking physical disabilities and ailments seek alms from the people from dawn to dusk here.

“These beggars are very good orators and master persuaders. They often manage to soften the hearts of people with their tragic tales told in emotional voices,” says Reyaz Ahmed, a bank employee.

“Some of them tell the people that they are not professional beggars but are forced to beg due to some tragedies, or that they need money for treatment of serious illness or accident,” informs Reyaz.

Like Reyaz, Saba, a student of Government College for women, M.A Road, also feels pestered by beggars.

“They will coax, cajole, whimper or grovel, but they will somehow make you to pay,” says Saba, adding that it is sometimes very embarrassing to encounter them as they even clutch your sleeve if you don’t pay them.

“They are a nuisance for public, and government should do something to check this menace,” adds Saba.

Muhammad Junaid, a social activist, feels that government should come up with a comprehensive policy to check the problem of begging.

“There should be maximum institutionalized help for the beggars who take to begging due to some unfortunate circumstances or personal tragedies. Beggar homes should be established for them where not only they can be counseled and rehabilitated but also provided vocational trainings so that they become financially self-reliant and productive citizens for the society.”

Jammu and Kashmir can take cue from Punjab, where beggar homes have been established in the cities of Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar which have helped in the rehabilitation of beggars in Punjab in a major way.

Junaid, however, also cautioned that beggars from outside the state should not be allowed to enter Kashmir Valley as some of these people are also responsible for many social problems like alcoholism, drug addiction and other immoral activities.
When contacted, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of police, Central Kashmir Range, A G Mir told ‘Kashmir Images’ that begging is not an offence under law, so police can do little in curbing this problem.

Director, Social Welfare department, Hilal Ahmed Parray couldn’t be contacted for his comments on the issue despite repeated attempts by ‘Kashmir Images’.