A year after Anand Ashram, a shelter home for beggars, became operational in Telangana’s capital Hyderabad, over 6,000 beggars have been rehabilitated, according to VK Singh, State Director-General of Prisons. The number is based on the fact that out of the 10,418 beggars housed in the Ashram, 6,760 were lodged only once in the shelter home, implying that they had not resorted to begging ever since.

Launched ahead of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) that was attended by US President Donald J Trump’s daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump, the campaign to make Hyderabad ‘beggar-free’ received worldwide criticism. Media from all over the globe cohered that the campaign was not launched with a social intent, but as quick fix to rebuild the city’s image before Miss Trump.

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Vindicating the criticism, Singh said that the social intervention programme accompanying the campaign were proof enough that it wasn’t for Ivanka Trump that the beggars were being relocated.

The shelter home has housed 10,418 beggars in the past one year for rehabilitation, of whom 4,240 were lodged more than once. Which means that the remaining 6,760 beggars did not return to begging again.

“There are beggars who have been lodged four to five times in the shelter homes, which is a pressing issue. We are looking at the issue of beggary as a social issue and not as a law and order one. They are being counselled as well,” he said.

Pointing out a strange new trend of part-time begging, he explained, “We have a lot of people coming to the city, beg for a few hours and then leave. Such beggars are from neighbouring districts including Mahbubnagar. By the time we go to relocate them, they disappear.”

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Interestingly, the Delhi High Court in August this year decriminalised beggary under the law as it observed that people beg on the streets not because they want to, but because they need to. It was seen as the failure of the state to provide them with shelter. However, Singh argued that the Telangana government is “providing shelter” through its initiative to the beggars at large.

The current strength of 199 beggars lodged in the two shelter homes under the campaign, one for males and other for females, are being taken to picnics as part of the first year celebrations. “The beggars are being taken in batches to Public Gardens, Salarjung Museum in batches. Sports activities and cultural programmes will also be held for them for them through this week,” informed M Sampath Kumar, principal, SICA. Celebrating one year of its inception, the prisons department incurred a total cost of `1.74 crore which, the department claimed, will be reimbursed by the state government.

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Thirty four persons were awarded cash rewards for informing about the presence of beggars to the prisons department. Ten per cent of the total beggars were also traced following a successful match that was made by a non-governmental organisation with the Central Crime Records Bureau data.#KhabarLive