around, beggars made to disappear from Delhi streets
You may not be able to spot too many beggars on Delhi streets all
of a sudden. As the city decks up for the Commonwealth Games, many
people who seek alms, sell knickknacks or are simply destitute on
the capital’s streets are finding themselves unwanted.
Seventy-year-old Shanti was a garland seller for 40 years on the
streets of Delhi. Now she sits in a cold corner of a shelter for
the homeless. She has lost her courage to venture out after being
thrown into jail as part of a security drive for the Commonwealth
One look and the wrinkles on her face tell her story.
"I don't sell 'gajras' (garlands) and balloons any more. I am
tired and scared of another arrest," said Shanti, fiddling with
the edge of her torn, discoloured sari at the shelter in Motia
Khan in central Delhi.
She came out of jail two months ago. She was picked up by police
that tried to clear the streets of vendors and beggars before the
"They even picked up my grandchildren who were sitting with me
that day. For almost a year we were inside - my crime was that I
was trying to earn a living.
"For years, I have slept on the pavement. For more than 40 years I
have been doing this, then why should they realize one day that it
is against the law?" an angry Shanti told IANS.
In the absence of a national law, the Bombay Begging Prevention
Act of 1959, which bans begging, vending on roads, cleaning
vehicles at traffic junctions, singing for money in buses and
displaying physical disability to seek alms was used for arresting
vendors during and before the Oct 3-14 Games.
"They were asked to sign a contract at the time of release stating
they will not return to their old profession and areas of
operation," said Mansur Khan, member of the NGO Beghar Mazdoor
Government figures claim there are about 60,000 beggars, including
street vendors, in the city.
But according to the National Association of Street Vendors of
India, in the last two-and-a-half months, over 275,000 informal
sector workers, including street vendors and ragpickers, have
become jobless in the city due to CWG.
"In the run-up to the Games, homeless citizens were arrested and
detained in custodial institutions on grounds of 'begging', with
the sentences ranging from one to three years even though the
majority of them were gainfully employed. Mothers were separated
from their children. These are gross violations of human rights,"
said Shivani Chaudhry of the NGO Housing and Land Rights Network.
Swati Chauhan, 30, was termed a beggar when she was picked up by
police three months ago from the Hanuman
Mandir area in central Delhi.
"I was not begging; I was sitting on my husband's rickshaw. I was
tired of selling balloons on the road; so I went and sat on my
husband's rickshaw. They came and arrested me saying I was begging
and it was illegal," Swati told IANS.
Her husband was able to get her out in 22 days after raising a
bail money of Rs.3,000.
"All the while in jail I was thinking about my three young
daughters and crying. My husband is working double shifts to pay
back the bail money with interest. I have started doing my work
again: why are such laws only for people who are already
struggling to survive?" added Chauhan.
Similar are the stories of Ratna Bai, her disabled daughter Bharti
who was arrested with her infant child, and Tina and Babli, who
used to sell pens and books respectively on the streets. Tina got
so scared that once she was out of jail, she left for her village
in Uttar Pradesh with her husband.
The women picked up were housed at the Nirmal Chhaya shelter and
the men in Sewa Sadan Bhavan.
Suresh Kumar, 25, who sold incense sticks near the Pusa roundabout
and was arrested five months back. With no family or friends
around, it was the families of his jail inmates who paid his bail
"I don't sell anything now. It's been a month after coming out of
jail; I am looking for a job as a car washer or any other labour
related work. We are not begging; give us options of jobs," said
"There needs to be a difference (in the law) between beggars and
street vendors," he said, tears welling up in his eyes.
Parvinder Singh, communication manager, ActionAid, told IANS: "The
drive against beggars and vendors is criminalisation of poor
people, for them trying to make a living without doing anything
"It is important to point out that law is being used to turn the
poor into criminals - wanting and struggling to survive cannot be
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