They say beggars cannot be choosers but why would you want to choose if everything is handed out to you on a silver platter? That seems to be the case in Andhra Pradesh where, believe it or not, the Government is willing to compensate beggars to avoid the massive Pushkarulu festival that is being held.
The Andhra Pradesh Government have come up with a scheme where they can pay off beggars a fee of Rs. 5000/- so that they avoid the Godavari Pushkarulu festival that sees throngs of devotees flock to pray during the period. The paradox here is that the Andhra Pradesh government, just like many of the other states in the country has outlawed begging- refer to the Andhra Pradesh Prevention of Beggary Act, 1977.
To further add to this unique situation, the government in 2010, also formulated rules where a police officer with a ranking above a sub-inspector could arrest beggars- without a warrant. The gist of the rules state that if the person is physically able and was partaking in begging, they could be sent to a workhouse to supplement their physical ability for up to three years!
However, since there aren’t many concrete rules regarding the physical ability of a person, beggars can be found all over the state. This has prompted the Andhra Pradesh Government to come up with schemes that entail beggars to stay away from the sacred Godavari Pushkarulu festival.
Not only are they are willing to fund them, the government are also ready to provide free food to beggars to stay away from the festival. However, the cause of this scheme is that a lot of beggars have been queuing to take up compensation or advantage of this. Even conmen have been dressing up as beggars to indulge in the free money and perks being offered to them.
The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which has been adopted by many states to formulate their own anti-beggary law has been trying to reiterate the formal meaning of “begging.” It includes not just gathering and begging for alms, but also having no visible means of sustenance, or “wandering about or remaining in any public place in such a condition or manner, as makes it likely that the person doing so exist soliciting or receiving alms,” as quoted.
There have been many human rights activists who have vehemently criticized anti-beggary laws for criminalizing poverty and have pointed out to the colonial roots that these laws are a part of. However, the beggars of Andhra Pradesh right now won’t have much to complain about.