“Kya aap Hindi bolte hain?” comes the innocuous question from the man of slender build, as you spot his family of three trailing behind, at the busy intersection adjoining Secunderabad Railway station. Garbed as any average commuter, the man would then explain that they are from Maharashtra or Gujarat as the case may be, and have got their money stolen. “We have managed to get some money but could you spare Rs 50 for us to buy a ticket back home?” he would ask, often succeeding in convincing a passerby to part with some cash. Oddly though, the trio, alongwith similar outfits would be spotted at the same place for months and would flee when asked to prove their case.
Organised begging; though nothing new to Hyderabad, seems to have increased over the last few months, especially in crowded areas of the Twin Cities, like bus stands, places of worship, traffic interchanges and rail stations. down to the Patny interchange and you’ll find a similar story unwinding, as scores of elderly women with month-old babies come crowding around vehicles, asking for alms. “The traffic crossroads starting from Patny till Police Lines on SP Road are crowded by dozens of beggar families, and pose a traffic hazard for motorists, as they have to negotiate the crowd before going off to the next crossing,” said Sukumar Mahato, an employee at an IT Firm at Banjara Hills, who commutes from Marredpally on his two-wheeler.
In a similar vein, Aditya Soni, a City professional noted that “even the buses are not spared from the begging groups, especially in the buses plying from Secunderabad towards Jubilee Hills or Kondapur, where the groups operate by distributing pamphlets calling for alms.”
Speaking to the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Coordinator for Hyderabad District, E Gangadhar revealed that the Department has identified the Begumpet Railway station as a point of entry for the ‘organised’ beggars, who have a network that stretches to surrounding districts and even nearby States like Maharashtra. “Along with conducting begging activities, the beggars are also being suspected of working for drug peddlers as points of distribution near railway stations,” he said. It is estimated that apart from marijuana, hard drugs like heroin are also being supplied into the city in part through the beggars’ network.
“The disturbing thing about the various begging rackets in the city is the fact that a lot of children are inadvertently exploited, being forced into the profession when they are a few months old,” Gangadhar said, adding to note that “there have been recent reports of children being detected with bandages and wounds, which is a cause for concern.”
According to the Child Labour Department in the district, “the situation is being reviewed presently and will be taken up with the appropriate executive authorities in due course of time,” he said. Sources at the Hyderabad Collectorate indicated that some of the children in the business of begging are often rented on an hourly basis from needy parents in exchange of money, which hints at the spread of organised begging in the Twin Cities. The NCLP had conducted drives to rehabilitate children forced into the profession till June with the aid of funding from corporate bodies, the pace of which has slackened due to lack of initiative from the corporate sponsorship side.