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FAHAD HAMEED RANA He is former QLCian. He is currently a practicing lawyer.

Begging a Sickening Nuisance


In the third world, beggars are not an uncommon sight. Children and adults alike, with pitiable faces, a limb or two chopped off or a gouged out eye or perhaps a pus-filled wound, they can be seen everywhere- tapping on car windows at traffic lights, outside religious places, on pavements. So much has this problem inflated, that even the government has officially recognized beggary as an industry contributing towards countrys national income!!! However, what does not meet the eye, is the force behind this ever escalating problem of beggary, the organized Beggar Mafia, which can go at any lengths to safeguard their selfish interests; not even hesitating to hurt or maim the young, the elderly and the children alike, if it increases their chances of earning more. Perhaps this would be the worst kind of capitalists ever to walk on this planet! Few things disrupt public life on roads and streets with more audacity than beggars chasing people for paltry amount of money. It is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon to be interrupted, often insolently, while driving a car or on foot, by a barefoot child, a seemingly healthy woman carrying a bandaged infant, or an aging man waving a few pages of eveningers at you. They have become a big source of distraction for the public. Most of them shamelessly shock commuters in an attempt to generate maximum sympathy. They have horrific appearances or disabilities those are a convenient tool for extorting whatever little money they can, walking, limping or rollerskating with amputated legs up and down a road all day. For some commuters it does arouse an element of pity, while for many of them it is not more than a sickening nuisance. The intermediary entity of the beggar mafia exploits both the poor and the rich taking advantage of the immense economic divide between the two in our society. Neither gains any benefits. The poor remains eternally poor and the affluent ones money cannot reach the needy truly. In the presence of such network in society, the public alone cannot deal with the evil. This Article focuses primarily on children victimized by the Beggar Mafia. It sets to identify the causes behind the booming beggar industry and the problems faced by various lawmakers to effectively tackle this menace. At the same time, it brings a definite initiative for us to raise awareness about the issue and to consider appropriate means of support that can be provided to needy children. Well organized mafias deposit the invalids on the roads during every morning and remove them along with the daily earning of the same evening. The invalids are being exploited by anti-people groups who live on the earnings of these handicapped baggers.

We are not certain whether these baggers are born invalid or handicapped through evil contrivances. This practice of the mafia violates Article.3 of Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, which requires that the state shall ensure elimination of all forms of exploitation. Local Police or the officials of the city government keep their eyes closed to this ghastly inhuman and dangerous practice of exposing invalids to hazards and inciting them to beg at public places including Mosques, Hospitals, Shrines, Schools and Public roads. The law, prohibiting beggary and giving the powers to the police to arrest, has existed for 46 years before the Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act. Punjab Children Act, 1952, Shariat Act, 1991, Section.328 of Pakistan Penal Code protects the Fundamental rights of people who are being exploited by the Mafias who prepare them for their selfish interests. Article 38(d) of Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, contemplates that the state shall make provision for persons who are permanently unable to earn livelihood on account of infirmity and West Pakistan Vagrancy Ordinance, 1958 (ordinance XX of 1958) under which the government was required also to establish and maintain welfare homes for the custody and rehabilitation of neglected persons. However, the increasing presence of beggars at shrines, on the roads, or in the markets, is a proof that the police have not yet been mobilized to begin a crackdown on the mafia. S.S.P operations, Lahore Police, say: Dealing with beggary is definitely our priority, but given our time constraint our priorities do change. While the police department finds time off other pressing duties like keeping a check on the law and order situation in the cities during the local bodies elections, perhaps the public can do its bit by denying any amount of money to the beggars. With their product demand gone, dons might be reigned in. Had the government fulfilled its statutory obligations under ordinance XX of 1958? The present day wide spread evil of exploitation of human misery and violation of human dignity, exhibited at public places, and would have been eliminated altogether like all civilized societies of the world. The Beggary Prevention in Pakistan makes it illegal for people to beg. However, surprisingly the begging is almost like an industry now. Handicapped beggars are usually left alone by the Anti-Beggar squad while the others are rounded up, even though it is the handicapped ones who are generally employed by the Beggar Mafia. This usually leads to more instances of forced maiming of beggars. Clearly, handicapped beggars are better earners and the Beggar Mafia ensures that they stay on the street. Local enforcement officials are encouraged to look away. While beggars are treated as criminals and some undergo punishment of up to one year in detention centers, the Beggar Mafia remain unpunished. Recently, the Punjab government has taken steps to deal with a major group of recruits for this industry, the children, and passed Punjab Act No.XVIII of 2004 entitled as "Punjab Destitute and neglected children Act, 2004". Which carries out periodic rescue operations in alliance with the police squad? Over 82 successful operations since last year have been undertaken, based on information gathered from its pockets in civil society or open reception centers operating at strategic locations where beggar children spend time, are given temporary care and finally rescued. The bureau is given custody of the rescued children, who are then admitted to the Child Protection Institution where they live,

attended school and play. Upon identification, the Child Protection Court hands over custody to their parents/guardians giving them guarantee that they will not be seen on the streets again. So, the basic purpose of this Act is to protect the unprotected children from the people who are doing abhorrent Act.

As we know this Abhorrent Act is done by the people who are sage in a way that they know how to earn from this abject profession. They are least concerned with the health of the person, and more with his earnings. The abscond youth is used to befoul the beggary and earn livelihood. This menace is spread all over the country because the nation has not taken any bold step to stop this increasing social evil. This is not just the duty of the government or Government officials to stop it, nation as a unit should raise their voice against this menace. The bureau, working for the rescue and rehabilitation of destitute children, has rescued over 500 children from the streets of Lahore as part of its pilot project. These children have come from cities that include Kohat, Rahim Yar Khan, Multan and Rawalpindi. There are enough recruits for the industry to be exported from the cities of their origin without affecting the beggar population there. In the event of rescuing children, certain gangs have been busted whose number the bureau puts at 14. These include gangs like Kala Ungal Kaat, Zafar Urf Zafri Karachi Wala, Ashraf Urf Kala and Imam Bakhsh Urf Nathu gangs. They have been put behind bars or are facing trials. Counting the bureaus accomplishments she says: We have caught them from inside the sewers, from Data Darbar, supposedly worshipping or from the Minar-i-Pakistan making children sell drugs. Facts about the Booming Beggar Industry in Pakistan:Following are some rather gruesome facts about the Beggar industry in the subcontinent: Rates are fixed for where one wants to beg and a fixed percentage is set for authorities so that everyone can get a share of the beggars income. Some people (even quite healthy ones) are beggars by choice as they say that there is a lot of money in begging. On a good day (like festivals or other sacred days), a beggar at a religious place can earn as much as Rs.250 (about US $5), which is quite a considerable sum for a beggar. Surprisingly, the Government is aware of the increasing number of beggars in large cities and the money involved, but little action is taken.

Beggary has become a profession for most of those who are part of a much larger industry that recruits, trains and relocates men, women and children. Two things that drive this industry are of shock value and religious connotations of charity. To increase the shock value of innocent beggars the industry, run by a menacing mafia, has enough tricks up its sleeve. Acid and cigarette burns, amputation, and starvation are some of them and pose a serious threat to an individuals health. Few of them affect recruits for the rest of their lives, while others may be painful temporarily, and therefore capable of incurring maximum sympathy only for short-term purposes. The profession, of course, has a host of idiosyncrasies attached to it, including glue sniffing, drug abuse (even among very young children), minor criminal tendencies, prostitution, sexual abuse and coercion. Explaining the industrys modus operandi, beggar children earn 200-250 rupees everyday, but what happens is that either their fathers are addicts and take away all the money or there is an intermediary mafia that takes the children from poor parents for begging all day in exchange of providing for the child. The mafia then keeps most part of the earning 180 or 190 out of 200 and the child is left with only 10 rupees to take home. A majority of such beggars are children, most of who are kidnapped by the Mafia while they are still infants. The infants are not fed for days at a stretch so as to make them cry uncontrollably. These wailing infants are then kept on sidewalks or pavements with another maimed beggar on their side so that sympathetic passers-by donate generously. Furthermore, due to lack of adequate nourishment, the infants suffer from chronic nutritional deficiencies like Marasmus which lead to stunted growth and deformed bodies. Also, the infants skins develop hyper pigmentation due to constant exposure to the scorching sun. The Mafia also makes sure that the beggar children are addicted to street-life. The common practice among beggars in metropolitans is to drug infants and use them for begging. Slightly older children are also given drugs and intoxicants, permitted to enter places where drugs are sold, incited to beg or borrow and exposed to sedatives. There have been a few NGOs working for the welfare of these children who are the victims of the Beggar Mafia. They rescue and rehabilitate them and press the government to take firm action against the criminals. So far they have been successful to a certain extent, but injustice still prevails. Sadly, they are often more likely to run away and return to the street-life. This is one of the major reasons why the rescued beggar children by the NGOs do not respond to rehabilitation therapies. The young children who should be playing in kindergarten or studying in elementary school are made to learn the ways and nuances of begging. They are told the appropriate and the most lucrative places to beg, the kind of people to be approached for begging and are taught the various mannerisms and words to invoke compassion. At the end of the day, they must report back to the Mafia and turn over their days alms.

Other methods used by the Beggar Mafia include pouring acid to burn skin and induce pus. In Lahore, one such three-year old child whose left leg from thigh to foot was burnt with acid, oozing pus from the acid burns was found begging in by the roadside. She was eventually rescued with the help of police and is currently under the care of a welfare organization. Some other unfortunate young children are bought by the Beggar Mafia from relatives or custodians who cannot afford to keep them or simply do not want them. These children are first brutally beaten, burnt and starved for days in order to make them look miserable and then sent to the streets to beg. The brutal ways of the Beggar Mafia have no limits. Their working logic is not quite difficult to understand. Why would any common person roll down his cars window pane on a busy traffic signal and give some money to a beggar who is fairly healthy and brisk? Accordingly, a person under the Mafias control is beaten and tortured and usually maimed for life to invoke pity and sympathy from the people, who in turn would give more alms. In order to sustain their brutal business, the Beggar Mafia do not hesitate to use willing doctors to first invalidate totally healthy limbs and then hacking them off before pushing the victims back on the streets to live off their earnings. Many rescued beggar children narrate horrific stories about forcible chopping off of limbs. According to certain special investigations by the media, in countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh many well qualified doctors are also shamelessly involved in this business and aid the Beggar Mafia. For as little as Rs.10, 000 (about $200), some senior orthopedic surgeons use their knives to cripple and maim perfectly healthy children and even grown ups. In fact, the methods of amputation are inhuman too. Gangrene is developed in the legs or arms by stitching up the muscles to block blood supply and within two-three days, the chosen limb is chopped off. Due to this increasing menace, there are more than twelve thousand handicapped beggars in Lahore area alone. The organized mafia which runs this network of beggars has in the recent past come up with a very clever tactic to extort money from the citizens. These kids now come armed with a soggy-wet windscreen wipe and before you can react do one quick wipe across the screen, hence capturing your attention. No longer does the old trick stare-straight-aheadhope-he-goes-away glaze work as with this scam he has now your undivided attention and the beggar is now ready to negotiate a deal in exchange for his services. Entrepreneurship at its finest form. Yesterday I was caught in such a situation, before I could react to stop him, the kid had my windscreen completely drenched and it left me simply furious. Nothing much could be done, I sat there fuming drove my car away wipers blazing, ruining the look of a freshly cleaned car. Personally I refuse to support beggars as my smallest donation is actually encouraging the trade, I often wonder why people don't realize this proliferating trade. I pose everyone a simple question - Why do you support beggar

Most people, mainly women, see these beggars as more of a blessing in disguise than irritating entities. They find beggars to be the most readily available recipients of charity (or sadqah nikalna) on a regular basis whenever commuting around the city. It is often their philanthropic spirit that makes them fork out money. Though there is no doubt that many people resort to begging because of poverty, at the same time they exploit their economic condition to earn a certain level of subsistence. They employ different methods to get easy money which they can earn standing by the roadside, often taking shelter under a tree or sitting while the traffic signal turns green, instead of earning the same amount labouring all day under any kind of weather conditions. This is why many physically fit young men are usually seen begging on the streets. If on the one hand the affluent see beggars as a medium to purifying (or legalize) their wealth, the beggars find this occupation the easiest way to earn a living. Hence this relationship has abetted beggary and turned it into an organized form.one massive operation clean-up would be almost impossible because in such an operation the mafia goes underground. It has a tight network whereby one gang instantly gets to know that a child from another gang in a far-off locality was picked up by the authorities. This organized mafia attacks innocent God-fearing-Fasting people like us who in pity will shovel out a 5-Rupee coin to this mafia, consider it as the Bhatta we pay them for leaving us alone, and you are allowed a peaceful passage until the next signal where a fresh gang invades your car. I simply refuse to give money as a matter of principle and instead choose to buy a few bags of Biryani to hand that out. What do you do? Views of people:1. In the same spirit one woman says: My husband and I dont give money to these women beggars, but when we see an old man we always give him because he has to feed his entire family. People have different justifications for giving charity to different kinds of beggars who they believe appear to be needy. 2.Because they wont leave alone my windshield and start cleaning it with a dirty cloth or incessantly knock at the window, I have kept denominations of Rs500 inside my dashboard to give them as soon as they come near my car, says a resident of Lahore. Personal Experiences:1. The people I worked for made me beg and use drugs. I was addicted to solution, says Ansar, a boy rescued off the streets of Hira Mandi, Lahores red-light area, by the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau set-up in 2004. 2. They burned my arm and my stomach with solution, so that I could beg more, he says when inquired about a scar on his arm. The left side of his entire chest is burnt down to his stomach. I went to a doctor in the neighborhood who took me to a hospital where I

had to stay for a month and a half, he adds. Ansar had to give Rs70 to Rs80 to the Mafia everyday. 3. A nine-year old boy was found squirming in pain when a local Beggar Mafia leader poured petrol over him, lightened a match stick and threw it on his body and left him over there. The beggar mafia is a ruthless gang of people. They target street children, get them addicted to drugs to make them totally addicted so that they cannot live life otherwise. They bribe doctors to amputate these childrens arms and legs to pass them off as beggars all for the sake of their personal profits and greed. Everyday runaway children from villages, towns and cities are caught hold of in railway stations, bus stations and forced into a life that we perceive as nightmares. These children are just like us, they have all the rights that we have. They have a right not to be exploited and they sure as hell have a right not to get their hands and legs amputated.

Conclusion:The problem of beggary, as you would certainly be aware of, is not new in Pakistan. However, the recent exposure of the gruesome facts of this beggar industry is spine chilling. It has been showed that the beggars are not independent but are instead a part of a very dense network of criminals called the Beggar Mafia. The Beggar Mafia recruits abducted or trafficked children, chops off their limb(s) and force them to beg on the streets. The children are given a target for money collection, and if they dont meet it, they are tortured and abused in the most unimaginable ways. Furthermore, in order to make sure that the children dont run away, they are drugged and are made addicted to the street life. The sole purpose of this brutality is to invoke pity in the passers-by so that they give alms to the beggars. Beggar Mafia is spreading at an appalling rate. And with all this injustice happening, we cannot take it lying down. Its high time we raise our voice against it and awake our government and its administration from its slumber. We hope that the Government of Pakistan takes some very serious action in this regard. It is a high time that we neglect this issue. We urge the Government to take the following action: 1. Probe immediate enquiry to identify and prosecute the criminals

and members of the Beggar Mafia network.

2. Support the NGOs working for the welfare of the victims of the Beggar Mafia

3. Empower these NGOs by financial and any other required assistance to continue their valuable worng. 4.Proper investigation in the relevant departments. 5.Check the Role of Police. HELP STOP BEGGING.

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Stark, Louise, "From Lemons to Lemonade: An Ethnographic Sketch of Late Twentieth-Century Panhandling." N. Engl. J. Public Policy . 8:341-52 (1992) "Understanding Family Homelessness in New York City," Vera Institute of Justice, September 2005: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dhs/downloads/pdf/VERA%20Study.pdf

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/raisevoiceagainstbeggarmafia/ http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mbegprofit.html

Fahad Hameed Rana