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KARACHI: The Sindh government is all set to launch a survey to collect data on beggars in all major cities of the province, mainly in Karachi, after Ramazan to help the authorities identify and assist the genuinely deserving people and penalise those who are running organised beggary gangs using children as tools, said a high official on Sunday.

The provincial social welfare ministry decided to launch the survey — in the first phase — over reports of influx of beggars in the city, and then persuade the genuinely needy to move to shelters being built for them in Karachi.

“The number of beggars increases manifold during Ramazan in Karachi,” said adviser to Sindh chief minister on social welfare Shamim Mumtaz.

“As a short-term step to discourage the evil practice, we are currently coordinating with police to keep a check on the evil activity in their respective areas. Through such actions, we have been able to cut the number of beggars and their activities in south district this month,” she said.

Survey may help identify gangs using children in the racket

However, she said, for long-term measures her ministry had decided to carry out a survey in Karachi after receiving a go-ahead from the chief minister. The exercise would help two ways, she said, adding that her ministry was determined to complete the job within a few weeks before moving to the second step.

“Once the survey is complete and we have exact number of beggars in the city we will be able to have a clear and true picture of the problem,” said Ms Mumtaz.

“It will also help us determine the number of organised beggary rackets. We have reports that there are groups which are using children as tools in the evil business and our survey will help identify such groups and their areas of operation,” she said.

Every year Ramazan sees a huge influx of beggars mostly seen at traffic signals, eateries, markets, hospitals, railway stations and bus stands. Repeated campaigns against the menace launched by government institutions have almost always met with failure because of lack of interest on part of the institutions concerned.

It has further encouraged beggary gangs to spread their tentacles throughout the city mainly during Ramazan. Though the crowds of street beggars in major cities reflect an increasing rate of poverty in the country, the astonishing rise in their number in the holy month suggests some forces must be operating behind the scene.

“We have reports received through different sources that there are groups which are running such rackets,” said the adviser.

“These rackets actually deprive the deserving people of any financial aid or assistance they might receive from philanthropists. We are building our shelters for the deserving people. We will reach them through the survey in which we will involve civil society and then we will take action against the imposters,” she said.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2017