Chennai, July 30 : The DMK government in Tamil Nadu under Chief Minister M.K. Stalin is in the process of rehabilitating the beggars in the state.
The Supreme Court had stated in a recent verdict that begging cannot be banned through legislation, adding that the court cannot take an "elitist" view in the matter.
Taking a cue from the Supreme Court observation, the Tamil Nadu government is planning to open rehabilitation centres across districts.
According to a study conducted by the state's Social Welfare Department, a large number of people are out on the streets in each and every district of Tamil Nadu.
During a recent meeting of the welfare department, Stalin had stressed the need for rehabilitation of beggars and making them meaningfully employed.
While several social organisations working among beggars are divided over banning begging, some groups are vociferously advocating the implementation of the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Begging Act.
M. Swaminathan, Director of the NGO 'Cause and Action', which works among the marginalised and deprived people, including beggars, in Salem, told IANS, "There is a need to implement the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Begging Act. However, the government should ensure that all the beggars who are out on the streets are properly relocated and given proper rehabilitation and not dumped in places that are similar to jails. Most of those who are on the streets are highly vulnerable and their mental condition will get affected if they are not properly rehabilitated." There are others who are against the implementation of Prevention of Begging Act, as they feel it would leave the poor people with no option.
Saju John of 'Thanal', an NGO working among the beggars in Madurai and Erode, told IANS, "I hope the administrators and those in power have read the Supreme Court verdict on begging.
"If somebody is on the streets, the society is equally responsible and he/she alone cannot be held responsible for such a situation. Several social and economic factors have led to him/her leading such a deprived life. Hence, according to me, banning begging is no solution and the government should tackle the issue at the grass-roots level so that people don't land up on the streets." According to senior officials in the Social Welfare Department, the Tamil Nadu government will conduct hearings in all the districts in which the district collectors, district superintendents of police, district social welfare officials and other concerned officials will take part and based on the feedback, the state government will formulate a policy on the rehabilitation of beggars.
According to the officials in the welfare department, there are several reasons behind people ending up on streets and a policy that the government would formulate will be based on the feedback.
As a first step, the department is contemplating to have a detailed study on beggars in each category.
Continuing education, including skill education for children, in association with NGOs and the skill development department of the Government of India to provide vocational skills to the children on the streets is one of the policy frameworks which the government would implement in the near future, sources said.
Vaccination of beggars on priority is the first measure the government has taken up, the sources said.