TODAY -

Begging business

By Somchandra Nahakpam *

Imagine the following scenario:
-A child with one of his arms or legs missing, begging in the busy streets of Imphal.
-A limbless person in a market, pulling your leg asking you for alms.
-A woman with a baby clinging in her arms, asking every passerby for a penny or so.
v These features are almost an unknown facet to the people of Manipur. It is an unthinkable act.

But not anymore.

One will find this if one passes by the streets of Khwairamband market in Imphal, particularly around the 'magnificent' flyover. If one takes a stroll in front of B.T. Park and one would certainly experience it.

It has become a reality. It is no more a phenomena of big cities and metros. Thanks to the Government agencies for making such things to happen.

Atleast our children won't have to get upset on seeing such things when they step outside the region. The gravity of the situation is that those who are into begging in the streets of Imphal are non-Manipuris.

Now that makes one speculate if the people of the State are so affluent and prosperous that attract such people or whether they thought that the people are usually generous so they can be overcome by their sentiments.

In our society, begging in the streets is non-existent (was non-existent). Of course we do hear people talking about 'Chaak-nibas' or people begging for food. But not for money.

Sometimes, we see few people with ragged clothes and with unusual attires (which people refer to as Angouba), but one will never see them begging . They are just urban nomads, searching for divine tranquility!

It is only few people who are begging in the streets now. But it won't take long time for such people to flock this place because they are aware of the prospects. One can personally take a look or examine the bowl of a beggar at the end of the day.

For them to come to this place where there is threat lurking evrytime is not a mater to be of much apprehension. They are happy as long as they can survive through begging. They are homeless, landless people who have been driven out of their habitation.

It is also quite intriguing and surprising how they got in Imphal given the travel expenses one has to bear. Should we presume this as an element of globalization?

The other side of the story is that the Manipuris are very much prone to this particular practice of begging. Local People in no time will start to emulate the practice as people will realize that it is one effortless way of getting money or earning an income.

It has also been observe that some/many people in Manipur want to earn quick money without any hard work or without sweating. And for them it will be a godsend.

So there is no doubt that this practice will be transmitted to the local people in few days to come, unless it is stopped. From Chaak-nibas, no doubt there will be hordes of Sel-nibas and it won't be any unusual sight anymore.

The circumstances given above will become more and more evident and that too involving the local populace. But here also it needs to be seen whether the non-Manipuris will dominate it.

In India, laws related to begging are a State subject and not a Central one. There is no Central Act 'regulating' beggary. So there is the he Bombay Prevention of Begging Act (BPBA) which is already enforced in Delhi.

There is no question why the Government of Manipur cannot enforce such law. Begging has become a major social problem in major cities. There are organized crime who force people and specially children into begging.

Many children are kidnapped and made physically disabled to be able to perform the trade properly. So it's a business. It has created a lot of social ills and crimes which are beyond belief .

We cannot assume that these things will not happen in Manipur. There is a need to check this problem immediately before it goes out of hand. Today it is only in the streets of Imphal who can guarantee that it won't spread to other towns as well.

Rather than focusing excessively on insurgency dilemma and defending cruel and inhuman acts like AFSPA, the Government needs to create laws and strategy to curb other social problems.

Civil society organizations can take up this issue as well. Too much expectation from the Government will be waste of time. It's time to realize the enormity of this particular problem.




* Somchandra Nahakpam contributes regularly to e-pao.net . The writer can be contacted at somnahakpam(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on December 15th , 2008.


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