New Delhi: Roads in the national capital will be free of beggars before the Commonwealth Games in October, the city government told the Delhi High Court.
In an affidavit filed earlier this week, the government informed a division bench of Justice Vikramjit Sen and Justice Manmohan Singh that it has written letters to 10 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, to take back beggars hailing from these states.
According to the social welfare department, the largest number of people begging on Delhi roads are from Uttar Pradesh with 27 per cent, followed by Bihar that accounts for 17 per cent. West Bengal comes third with 5.72 per cent and Haryana accounts for 5.17 per cent.
The reason these people throng the Delhi roads is that begging in the capital city is more profitable compared with other cities, says a survey by the social welfare department.
Despite conducting an anti-begging drive, the government had failed to make Delhi streets free of beggars. The Delhi High Court had earlier ruled that beggars should be rehabilitated in their native places in coordination with the Delhi government and various states.
The government also runs mobile courts for this purpose. These vans catch beggars and present them before the court, and subsequently they are sent to their respective states. According to the latest data available, 242 beggars were taken in by the mobile court and 122 were later released.
The court was hearing a public interest petition of social activist Harsh Mander, who said that begging should be decriminalised.
"If a person is destitute and begs for living, such a person cannot be treated as a criminal. He cannot be arrested or sentenced," he said in his petition.
He also challenged the constitutional validity of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, arguing on behalf of Mander, said: "We are protesting against the unconstitutionality of the present act that says begging is a crime."