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Cops must be able to identify beggars

Yesterday, this paper published a front page report about a beggars’ home, where a majority of inmates are not beggars. The report stated that around 70-80 per cent of people in this home are the elderly suffering from mental illnesses, cancer patients and even persons who are simply walking on the roads. Meanwhile, frantic families are on the lookout for these missing family members, unaware that they have been forcibly put into a beggars’ home. The report stated that the police had forcibly picked up several of these inmates on the assumption that they are beggars, and shunted them to the Beggars’ Home in Chembur. Certain inmates stated that the cops refused to listen to them even when told that they are not beggars.

First of all, the cops need to be sensitised to various conditions like mental illness, age-related illness like Alzheimer’s and dementia, so that they at least have some recognition of these symptoms. Then, maybe, they would have realised that some of these elderly people were not beggars; they were simply suffering from some illness or the other. Even a working knowledge of mental illness is important.

While slamming the high-handedness and ignorance of the police is one thing, one can only wonder at what the staffers of the Beggars’ Home were doing. Were they not able to differentiate between beggars and ill persons? Could they not inform the police after maybe a day or two, that these persons are not beggars at all?

The police also need to be certain about who is a beggar and who is not. One suspects that there is a certain grey area, because according to the report, a hawker was put into the home, as the cops said that he was a beggar. The problem needs immediate attention. Ordinary citizens cannot be terrorised in this way by simply being told that they are beggars and put into the home. Families will be scared to send their elderly, loved ones out of their homes, if this is allowed to continue. More sensitivity and awareness is needed from the men in uniform and the staffers at the home.

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