Karachiites stand up against professional beggars

Published April 16, 2023
On coming out of a mosque after prayer, a man finds himself encircled by beggars on Shahrah-i-Liaquat. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
On coming out of a mosque after prayer, a man finds himself encircled by beggars on Shahrah-i-Liaquat. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: While the current economic situation of the country has forced many families to depend heavily on the largesse of affluent people or charities, some organisations and individuals have taken a stand against professional beggars, who become a nuisance for the people of Karachi.

With the arrival of Ramazan, during which charity activities witness a significant increase, the number of beggars has also increased as apart from local, families from different parts of the country have arrived here on what many called a begging trip.

Many citizens have started a boycott of such professional beggars as they believe they are actually harming those people who really deserve their charity in such a tough time.

A campaign is becoming popular on social media by a Facebook page named Ek Aam Karachi Wala under the hashtag #BheekBand, asking people not to give alms to professional beggars.

Starting from social media, campaigns against professional beggars gain momentum; police say operation against beggars intensified in Ramazan

Actually, the campaign is not against charity, but rather against professional beggars. Similarly, JDC Foundation has also launched a boycott campaign against these professional beggars.

Former cricket captain’s support

Throwing his weight behind the campaign, former captain of the national cricket team Sarfaraz Ahmed in a statement on social media said that instead of giving money to beggars, people should give the money to those who were not habitual beggars, but rather needy and deserving.

Other social media activists and users are also boycotting the beggar mafia individually.

Such campaigns are not something new in the city. There have been many campaigns against professional baggers as well as police crackdowns in the past but nothing has worked so far.

In November 2020, members of civil society along with public rights activists launched a similar boycott campaign, focusing their efforts particularly on saving children from this mafia, which is highly suspected to be involved in criminal activities such as kidnapping, drug smuggling and street crimes.

In a big crackdown by police in January 2021, several beggars were arrested along with many children who were then sent to shelter homes.

Abid Beli, who runs the page Ek Aam Karachi Wala, and started the campaign said that he was forced to take this step because beggars in the city had made his life quite difficult. “I have become sick and tired of constantly refusing beggars. Wherever I go, wherever I park my car, these beggars come around me and I have to say this to them.

He first started this project individually in 2010 under a group named “I Own Pakistan” and at that time his team planned that the children who were begging on traffic signals, should be admitted to schools of an NGO.

There they would study and his team could also help them in starting small businesses in part time, he said. But then “things became problematic,” he said. “Once, as we were collecting data of children on different signals, four volunteers of our team were abducted from Tariq Road traffic signal and beaten, and later thrown near Sabzi Mandi.”

He said the camping was stopped then, but in 2020, when Covid-19 affected many families and people went below the poverty line, we started this campaign again so that the money that goes to these professional beggars could be diverted to people who really deserved it and were being neglected due to these beggars.

Besides, these beggars were not actually needy or poor, he said, and earned thousands of rupees each on daily basis. The volunteers of this campaign are also exposing beggars, who were trying to pretend to be disabled; footage of which can be seen on their Facebook page.

He said this menace could only be eradicated by people because neither these beggars ask for money at gunpoint, nor does the government force people to do so.

People gave money by their choice and only they could stop it. When they will not get money from people, the mafia operating them would eventually be forced to end this exploitation and these beggars would also be forced to do productive work for their survival and this vicious circle would come to an end, he added.

Anti-Beggary Unit

The provincial police had also formed an Anti-Beggary Unit to tackle this problem. Similar efforts have also been made by Sindh Child Protection Authority (SCPA) to save children from the clutches of these gangs, but to no avail.

A spokesperson for the district South police told Dawn that Anti-Beggary Unit that had become inactive previously had now been made functional and was taking strict action against the beggars’ mafia in cooperation with Defence Clifton Community and that several FIRs had been filed since last month.

The operation has been intensified during Ramazan especially, he said.

SCPA, in association with the police, has also launched an operation to rescue children forced into begging and a crackdown has recently been launched on professional and criminal record holding beggars as part of the effort to rid the provincial capital of the issue of child beggary.

Rescued children will be sent to Shelter Home for Destitute Children, Malir, for rehabilitation.

Seven special teams have been formed in all seven districts of Karachi division for this, a SCPA official told Dawn.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Another lynching
Updated 22 Jun, 2024

Another lynching

The chilling alternative to not doing anything — which appears to be the state’s preferred option — is the advent of mob rule.
Tax & representation
22 Jun, 2024

Tax & representation

THE taxation measures outlined in the budget for the incoming fiscal year have triggered a lot of concern among ...
Life of the party?
22 Jun, 2024

Life of the party?

THE launch of Awaam Pakistan, a party led by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former finance minister...
KP’s ‘power struggle’
Updated 21 Jun, 2024

KP’s ‘power struggle’

Instead of emboldening protesters, CM Gandapur should encourage his provincial subjects to clear their due bills and ensure theft is minimised.
Journalist’s murder
21 Jun, 2024

Journalist’s murder

ANOTHER name has been added to the list of journalists murdered in Pakistan. On Tuesday, Khalil Jibran’s vehicle...
A leaner government?
21 Jun, 2024

A leaner government?

FINANCE Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb has reiterated his government’s ‘commitment’ to shutting down ministries...