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Modi government to rope in beggars to promote various schemes

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By Meghna Nair

The current union government is known for the various methods it incorporates to reach out to the general public. Even during the general elections of 2014, BJP proved its mettle in terms of campaigning and successfully garnering the attention of the masses.

The BJP-led NDA government has once again come into news with its latest idea of using beggars to promote various schemes launched by it. The new idea comes from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and aims at publicizing schemes such as Swachch Bharat Abhiyan and Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao etc. through beggars.

According to a recent survey by Delhi School of Social Work, there are approximately 60,000 beggars in Delhi, whereas there are almost 300,000 in Mumbai according to a 2004 Action Aid report.  A report by Beggar Research Institute states that there are nearly 75,000 beggars in Kolkata.

The number of beggars has been increasing since many years. The figures make it ostensible that Mumbai houses the most number of beggars.

Austerity measures after lavish expenditure on the Swachh Bharat?

As stated by a report published in the Mint, the government splurged approximately Rs 40 crores on advertising for the Swachh Bharat campaign. This strategy won’t cost half as much, considering the fact that most of these beggars actually do sing well.

The plan is to train 3000 beggars to sing informative and catchy songs to garner the attention of the masses. As a strategy, it seems to be a sound one, as no one has an easier approach to a huge number of people than a beggar.

The Song and Drama division of the ministry is going to spearhead the project, whereas All India Radio has been given the charge to train the beggars and render them as melodious singers attuned to songs about the government’s schemes.

The project is set to start in Mumbai first and the government plans to roll it out to other cities in a phased manner. Simultaneously, the government plans to seek the help of various NGOs in order to implement the project.

The beggars who will be roped in for the project will be given some remuneration in exchange of their services, and an official was quoted as saying that the government is set to draft the remuneration model for the project.

How will it impact the beggary?

According to reports, the government is also looking to use the training of beggars as a plausible livelihood option.

“Our field publicity reports show that the number of such beggars in the Mumbai’s suburban trains is high and that there are entire families singing and begging for money. Many of them are experienced singers. We are looking at this as a livelihood opportunity. This is a better way to use their abilities,” a government official was quoted as saying in the Economic Times.

Although the initiative of providing livelihood to the beggars is commendable, we cannot ignore the fact that some states condemn beggary and it is regarded as a punishable offence.

The introduction of Bombay Prevention of Begging Act of 1959 even includes “singing” and “dancing” in public places within the definitions of begging.

The law further states that the people caught indulging in beggary can be taken into custody and tried under the law.

In an attempt at probably providing a solution to the problem of beggary and poverty, the government might actually end up doing the opposite—encouraging beggary.

Because even if the government provides some incentives, the beggar will still do what he does best and feels most comfortable doing—he will beg!

This “initiative” by the government leaves some question marks. What about the laws which criminalize beggary? Does this move mean that the government is accepting and de-criminalizing beggary? Will it provide a long term solution to it?

The training that beggars will undergo during this initiative will hardly impart any useful skills that are beneficial in the long run. It cannot be considered as the guaranteed long-term livelihood source, which the government projects it as.

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Beti Bachao Can’t Just be Relegated to a Campaign, Says Actress Shilpa Shetty

Meanwhile, the 23-year-old rape victim in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao district died on late Friday night in a Delhi hospital. The victim was attacked outside Sindupur village in Unnao when she was on way to a Rae Bareli court to attend a hearing in the rape case. She was abducted by the five men, Harishankar Trivedi, Ram Kishore Trivedi, Umesh Bajpai, Shivam and Shubham Trivedi, who beat and stabbed her before burning her alive

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Shilpa Shetty Kundra
Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty. (Wikimedia commons)

Shilpa Shetty took to Instagram to express anger and anxiety over the series of violent sexual attacks and murders of women across the country. The actress added Beti Bachao cant just be relegated to a mere campaign. It needs to be put into action.

On Instagram, Shilpa shared a couple of news reports, one which talks about the Unnao victim who was set ablaze by her perpetrators and the other about the alleged rape and murder of a woman in West Bengal’s Malda.

Sharing the news reports, the actress spoke about the insecure position of women in our country, where rape victims are treated with apathy and culprits roam freely.

“The position and dignity of women in our country is in dire straits… it’s been so for a while now. Stepping out every day has become an ordeal for most, one that is unavoidable. As a woman, I can’t even express how disgusting it is to see the apathy towards rape victims, survivors, and their families. It is highly disappointing to regularly read the news stating that an offender/culprit has been granted bail and is out… What for? To be given another chance to commit a more heinous crime? Reading about girls of all ages being abused and the brutality involved in each case makes my skin crawl. I’m a mother to a son, but I don’t think I can bring myself close to imagining the fear that mothers of daughters feel every day,” she wrote.

Shilpa Shetty Kundra
Shilpa Shetty Kundra. Wikimedia Commons

Over the past few weeks, reports of brutal rape and murder of young women in different parts of the country like Hyderabad, Tamil Nadu, Unnao and West Bengal dominated the headlines. Talking about how the country immediately needs to do something to protect its daughters, Shilpa urged the authorities to enforce stricter laws to prevent such incidents in the future and punish the culprits.

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Tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi in her post, the actress further wrote: #BetiBachao can’t just be relegated to a campaign. Intent isn’t enough if it can’t be put into action. I urge our authorities to enforce stricter laws that will not only deter future perpetrators, but also severely punish the offenders undergoing trials. Also, expediting these proceedings is the need of the hour. Justice delayed is justice denied! Jai Hind! @narendramodi #EndRape #EndSexualViolence #NoTolerance #punishment #NoMoreRape #EndRapeCulture #NoToAbuse #stop.”

Meanwhile, the 23-year-old rape victim in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district died on late Friday night in a Delhi hospital. The victim was attacked outside Sindupur village in Unnao when she was on way to a Rae Bareli court to attend a hearing in the rape case. She was abducted by the five men, Harishankar Trivedi, Ram Kishore Trivedi, Umesh Bajpai, Shivam and Shubham Trivedi, who beat and stabbed her before burning her alive. (IANS)