Draft bill seeks to decriminalise beggary

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New Delhi, Feb 29: The government has drafted a bill that seeks to decriminalise beggary and offer a life of dignity to the beggars, homeless and others who live in poverty or abandonment.

Begging is currently a crime under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959. Under the Act, a person found begging can be sent to a shelter home or even jail without trial.

The draft ‘The persons in destitution  protection, care and rehabilitation) Bill 2015’ looks at the issue as a social menace.

In the bill, ‘destitution’ refers to a state of poverty or abandonment, arising from economic or social deprivation and ‘persons in destitution’ include the homeless, beggars, people with physical and mental disabilities, the old, infirm and others who are in a state of poverty or abandonment.

According to the bill, concerned state governments will constitute Outreach and Mobilisation Units in districts and conduct surveys for the purpose of mapping areas and identifying persons in destitution, create awareness among them about the Act and provide them assistance in procuring documents required to avail the benefits of any such scheme or legislation.

Also, the state governments will establish rehabilitation centres for the care, protection and vocational or skill development training for such people.

“Each centre will be adequately staffed and supported by qualified persons such as doctors, social workers, counselors vocational training instructors etc.

“The state government may establish separate rehabilitation centres for women and differently abled destitutes. The existing shelters running for the destitute and homeless will be upgraded in such a manner that it provides comprehensive services for their rehabilitation,” the bill says.

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Persons in destitution, apart from training, medical support and shelter also require emotional and psychological support for which the state government will constitute counselling units attached to each rehabilitation centre which will counsel them and assist them in opting for vocational training and engage in sustainable activities as a measure of rehabilitation and their reintegration with the mainstream society.     The state government will constitute a Monitoring and Advisory Board to monitor and coordinate implementation of the schemes and advise the government on matters related to care, protection, welfare and rehabilitation of destitutes.

“It will act as a linkage between various government bodies, non-government agencies and community groups for facilitating the rehabilitation and mainstreaming of such people.

“For the purpose, Inspection Committees for the rehabilitation centres will be also constituted,” it says.

The draft bill states that the District Welfare Officer, Department of Social Welfare or the concerned Department handling the issues of destitutes and beggary in the states shall be responsible for the supervision, monitoring and coordination of the implementation of this Act in the districts and Director, Social Welfare, shall be responsible for that at the state level, the draft bill says.

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