As soon as Eid festival approaches, beggars throng in jam-packed markets and roads to secure maximum alms and charities for which they often adopt irritating techniques to annoy people during the shopping spree despite the fact that begging has been made illegal under the law of the land.
On eve of Eid, both the professional and non-professional beggars make their way to the most lucrative markets of the city from different districts of the province and other regions to make money.
For this purpose, they employ various tricks to exploit human nature and religious sentiments by crying, weeping and chasing people in public spaces while wearing miserable attire.
It has been witnessed that these unchecked and sometimes trained beggars are chasing Eid shoppers in the markets or running after them or behind their cars to collect maximum alms in the name of Zakat, Fitrana, Sadqa and Khairat during last days of Ramazan.
Qissa Khwani Bazaar, Hashtnagri, Gantagar, Firdus, Nothia, Tehkal, Gulbahar, Faqirabad, Karimpura, board and Saddar areas are flooded with beggars occupying key points in front of shopping malls, mosques, roads signals, bus terminals, railway station, traffic squares and streets in a bid to secure maximum alms on the eve of Eidul Fitr.
Despite implementation of social distancing by the government against the COVID-19, they keep on holding and touching the customers when they come out of their vehicles which could expose them to deadly virus.
Most of the beggars had untreated wounds to get peoples’ sympathies, while many carry medical prescriptions and disability certificates to ‘prove’ their need or helplessness without knowing that such unlawful practices may expose Eid shoppers to a number of communicable diseases including the COVID-19.
Some professional beggars in the guise of labourers and daily-wagers with agricultural tools in hands are also roaming around in bazaars and streets till late night while begging in the name of losing jobs during the lockdown.
Talking to APP, former minister for environment and forest, Wajid Ali Khan said Eid shoppers were facing great inconvenience at traffic signals, food restaurants, bus terminals, railways stations, mosques, hospitals, markets and public places due to influx of beggars in Peshawar.
“It is heartbreaking to see young girls and boys beggars carrying wipers in hands who forcefully start cleaning cars windows on traffic signals without asking drivers for permission and demanding money for their labour,” he added. He said some beggars come with water bottles, flowers and garlands to give the impression that they were selling it, but they only beg for money without the intention of selling anything.
Misal Khan, a retired Information Officer said, “I was busy in Eid shopping along with my family at Qissa Khwani bazaar Peshawar last night where a teenage beggar with black colour in hand rushed towards me, asking for money or otherwise my cloths would be made dirty. In order to save my cloths, I immediately offer him Rs50 that was refused. On several requests, the beggar has accepted Rs 100 and started running towards other shoppers by using the same technique that was intolerable in a civilized society” he recalled.
He urged the government to take instantaneous action against beggars in the city so that people could make their Eid shopping easily.
Esa Khan, former Additional Advocate General KP said that beggary has been declared illegal under West Pakistan Loitering Ordinance 1958.
He said unfortunately this law had not been fully implemented that resulted substantial increase in the number of beggars, especially children and women in the country.
The Senior Lawyer said central and provincial laws such as Control of Narcotics Substance Act 1997, West Pakistan Vagrancy Ordinance 1959, Pakistan Employment of Children Act 1991, KP Child Protection and Welfare Act (KPCPWA) 2010 and KP Orphanage Supervision and Control Act 1976 had been promulgated to check drug addiction and streets begging.
Similarly, KPCPWA was enacted in 2010 to protect rights of women and children, but it has not been fully implemented on ground, resulting in increase the number of beggars in the city.
The Lawyer said the role of Child Welfare Commission (CWC) was important to provide protection to child beggars.
He urged KP to impose ban on child beggars on the pattern of Sindh province and direct the social welfare department to pick child beggars from markets, roads, traffic signals, streets and rehabilitate them at their welfare centres.
Habib Afridi, Director Social Welfare Department said an inclusive program worth Rs10 billion for next three years had been chalked out under which special schemes for rehabilitation of beggars, special children and empowerment of poor women would be launched in the province.
He said KP Govt was being approached to allocate at least Rs four billion in the upcoming budget for development projects of the social welfare department.
Habib Afridi said coronavirus pandemic has badly affected beggars’ rehabilitation activities and special programs would be started with assistance of NGOs in post COVID-19 period to bring them into mainstream.
He urged the people to donate alms and charity to poor deserving people on Eid to discourage professional beggars.