In a major social welfare decision, the Uttarakhand Government has ordered a strict ban on begging in and around religious places in the state and has also set up a task force for the implementation of ban. The newly formed Trivendra Singh Rawat government has issued directives to the district magistrates (DMs) of all the 13 districts in the state to ensure that there is no begging activity in and around religious places, particularly by children, in their respective districts. The government has also asked the administration to ensure strict punishment to those who are found giving alms to beggars in order to discourage the practice.
The government directive comes after the recent Uttarakhand High Court directive ordering a complete ban on begging (100% no begging) at religious places. Significantly, encouraging children towards begging will now be counted as a crime. Any individual who gives alms to children or provides money to children in lieu for doing jobs like shoe polishing or any other act that is akin to begging will be taken as unlawful act.
For complying with the order, the state government has also ordered the setting up of a task force comprising officials of the Police, Labour and the Women and Child Welfare Departments. Interestingly, before the High Court orders, begging was banned only in Haridwar district, which keeps much importance from the religious point of view and has been attracting a large number of beggars for long. But now the state government has decided to take severe action and ensure that the state is made begging free.
The state has been following the Uttar Pradesh Beggary Prevention Act, which terms begging as an unlawful act. But the implementation of the Act has often been found wanting and begging has continued in the state.
The state has a large number of religious places starting from the Char Dham shrines to famous temples of the twin towns of Rishikesh and Haridwar. A large number of pilgrims come to these places and give alms to beggars out of faith resulting in encouragement to the practice of begging.