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A noteworthy move

by malinga
September 8, 2023 1:05 am 0 comment

A Parliament Working Committee has directed the Department of Social Services to provide it with a census of the beggar population in Colombo and other main cities, according to a news report. The census which already commenced on the 5th of this month is to be carried until the 8th of September. The assistance of the Police too has been enlisted in the task.

It is not clear what is behind the move for such an exercise. But the beggar population has today posed a major social problem. Recently it was proposed to evict all beggars in the Colombo city and remove them to rehabilitation centres. It is not known what became of this plan. But the growing beggar population in the country is certainly caused for concern. It is also an index of the neglect suffered by a section of the community. Needless, to say poverty and want has driven many to begging aggravated by the dire economic circumstance the country is in today. However, it must also be said that begging has also become a lucrative business for some. Some time ago the media reported that a man identified as a beggar was found to be living in a two-storied house. There was also the instance reported in the media of how a beggar was able to offer change money to the tune of Rs. 6,000 in exchange for larger notes from a shopkeeper. It was also revealed that in certain instances ‘beggars’ -both male and female- usually disfigured or with tiny children are transported in cars by rogue elements and dropped at certain points to ply their trade and later in the day picked up by the same parties who keep the bulk of the spoils only parting with a nominal sum to the ‘beggars’. Therefore it will not be an easy task to identify the real beggars from the fakes.

However, there is no gainsaying that a solution should be found to eradicate the beggar menace from our midst. In fact today beggars have come to become a big nuisance pestering passengers in trains and buses and also motorists at the traffic lights. Most female beggars carry with them their tiny tots to evoke the sympathy while others make an exhibition of their permanent disabilities for the same purpose. Worse, the children too eventually graduate to become beggars that is going to cause a huge social problem someday. According to the prevailing law, it is compulsory for all children to attend school until the age of 16. Surely then the children of beggars cannot be an exception. This is a matter for the Social Services Ministry and particularly the Department of Probation and Childcare to take stock of. We don’t want beggars proliferating in the country at such alarming numbers and this exactly will be the case if the beggar children too graduate to be taken after their parents. For starters begging on public transport should be banned. In fact, such a ban had been imposed some time ago but beggars continue to ply their trade without let or hindrance.

Meanwhile, the Social Services Department should also go into the matter of the employment of domestic help in rich homes. The matter was brought into sharp focus recently with the death of a domestic helper while in Police custody on a complaint by a well-known businesswoman. The victim who was a young girl had been brought to the home by her poverty-stricken parents working in a tea estate in Badulla. Usually; it is from the plantations that these domestic helpers come from to slave in the homes of the rich. This practice should be brought to an end and the Social Services Department should also carry out a census on all domestic help and take the necessary steps in this regard. The practice of employing domestic help by the wealthy was a thing that was widely prevalent in the past. Of course, some of these domestic help was well rewarded and continued to serve in these homes as faithful family retainers. But for the most part, these domestic aides were ill-treated and made to suffer indignities. We are today living in an enlightened age which should leave no room for any kind of slavery.

The ill-treatment of the children in the various orphanages and Children’s Homes too should be looked into. There has been a notable rise in the incidents of child abuse in these centres reported in recent times. The culprits usually are the so called guardians themselves. There have also been instances of cruelty to the inmates that have come to be highlighted in the media at these Homes. Nothing is known if the guilty parties, who as mentioned are the keepers of these Homes, were brought to task. The Department of Probation and Childcare should play a more proactive role in ensuring that these Children’s Homes are properly managed and that the inmates are safe from predators.

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