The government is yet to formulate a guideline to rehabilitate beggars systematically though it has been running a special programme in this regard for the last 10 years.
The Social Welfare Ministry has introduced a specialised project titled ‘Beggars rehabilitation and alternative employment’ in the fiscal year 2011-12 after conducting a survey in 2010.Regarding the policy and rehabilitation of beggars, State Minister for Social Welfare Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru said the government has been working for formulation of the guideline to discourage begging.
“We always discourage begging. An initiative has been taken to formulate the policy to control the surge of begging. However, the process is taking time due to the ongoing wave of the coronavirus pandemic,” he told the Daily Sun.
Sources in the ministry said several thousand beggars have so far been rehabilitated in their districts. But many of them returned to the old profession to earn more.
“The government has rehabilitated several thousand beggars in their respective native districts. The beggars have been provided with small cottage and other necessary supports for managing livelihood. Despite those initiatives, many of them returned to the profession in greed of money,” Ashraf Ali Khan said.
He mentioned that many low-income people, who work as domestic helps or day labourers in the capital, also beg to earn extra.
Sources in the ministry said there is no specific data on beggars in the country. The data of the Department of Social Services, however, shows that there are 0.75 million beggars across the country before the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.The NGOs, however, said the figure is double the government estimate. According to a survey conducted by them in March last year, there are some 1.5 million beggars across the country while some 50,000 in the capital alone.
During a survey in 2010, some 10 non-government organisations identified 10,000 beggars in Dhaka. Of them, some 2,000 were rehabilitated in their own districts.
Besides, some 8857 beggars in 58 districts were rehabilitated.
After assuming office in 2009, the Awami League-led grand alliance government in 2010 conducted the survey to assess the possibilities of the project.
Some Tk 67.05 million was allocated in 2010-11 fiscal year. The programme was very slow primarily but later it was expanded across the country in 2017-18.
Since then, the government rehabilitated on average 2,710 beggars in every fiscal, the DSS data shows.
Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) research director Khondaker Golam Moazzem identified two points behind the slow pace of rehabilitation programme for beggars.
“The initiative from the government is good. However, in terms of reality, the authorities concerned should think deeply about the regular income source of the rehabilitated people,” he said.
Secondly, the rehabilitation of the beggars must be nearer to the urban as they feel comfort in the town for livelihood with micro-level work. In this point, I suggested rehabilitating the community in nearer places to the town as they can contribute to economy,” Dr Golam Moazzem told the Daily Sun.