Inmates at the Chembur Beggars’ Home are living in a derelict building, but a spanking new home meant for them is lying vacant, because the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has yet to give the building an occupation certificate.
The new home is well equipped on the inside and outside. Solar panels can feed the entire building. Pics/Suresh KK
mid-day had reported on March 26 that 70-80 per cent of the inmates at the home were not beggars, but people the police had picked up from the streets on suspicion of begging (‘Beware! You could be next inmate at beggars’ home’).
The dormitories are spacious and allow plenty of natural light in, while the kitchens are big with separate cooking and washing areas
The report also detailed the poor living conditions of the inmates, who lived in dark rooms, had unhygienic toilets and were fed unhealthy food. The inmates currently stay in the barracks.
Authorities could do better and shift the destitute to the new building meant to house male beggars. The building is a ground-plus-three-storey structure spread over 6,700 sq metres, and can house 850 people.
mid-day visited the premises and saw the huge dormitories, big cooking area. There is also a 40-bed hospital for preliminary screening, provision for an ambulance, and many other facilities.
This building, whose contract was awarded in 2008 and construction of which began in 2011, has been lying vacant for nearly a year. The adjoining two-storey structure is meant for women beggars, and is in the last stages of construction. Work is anticipated to be completed by April end.
Civic body delays
The three-sided building has a huge garden in between, which can be used for morning and evening walks. Entertainment programmes may also be arranged here. A lawn with seating arrangements is also available for visitors.
However, all this can be put to use only when civic officials decide to give the OC. Gautam Arwel, superintendent at the women’s beggars’ cell, said, “We cannot think of shifting any of the inmates unless we are given possession by PWD.”
An official from the Public Works Department said, “The structures are complete and as per the layout plan. But, the BMC has informed the developer that the OC will be given only after the environment clearance certificate.
This is an unheard-of requirement. This will further delay shifting the inmates, and the existing barracks can’t be demolished until the people move.”
When we asked the executive engineer of the Building Proposal department (Eastern Suburbs) why the OC had been held up, he said, “I’m currently not aware of this matter. I will revert after checking the files.”
Working on changing laws
Authorities at Koshish, the NGO working towards changing the anti-beggary laws that result in the elderly and the sick becoming inmates of the home, said they were working on de-criminalising beggary through The Person in Destitution (Training, Support and Other Services) Bill, 2013 drafted by working with the home officials.
Gautam Arwel, the superintendent at the home, stated, “Maharashtra will be the first state where The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 will be replaced by the new laws.” Mohammed Tarique, programme head of Koshish, explained, “We have proposed that beggary be de-criminalised.
Begging is a form of acute destitution and cannot be criminalised. Instead, there is a need for a rehabilitative and supportive law that not only prevents people’s entry into beggary, but also enables those already in it, to get out of it.”
“We have proposed to enable a person to earn meaningfully, and be provided assistance where working is not possible due to illness or old age. Provisions have been made to provide for voluntary admission to welfare homes, where vocational training would be extended.
It also provides for community outreach work for the mobilisation and subsequent community-based rehabilitation,” he added. Arwel continued that the quantum of punishment would also be reduced. “Unlike the old act, which could hand out 10-year terms for habitual beggars, the new law would be restricted to 3 years,” he said.
Facilities at the new home
>> Huge dormitories with sufficient fans, tube lights, common TV and ample sunlight
>> Bigger, better kitchen with separate cooking area, washing area, geyser and industrial exhausts
>> Ramps for the physically challenged
>> 40-bed hospital for preliminary screening and provision to arrange for ambulance, and also a mortuary
>> Lawn with seating arrangements for relatives, and a huge garden to take walks
>> Solar panels on the entire building to feed electrical connections in and around the structure
Number of male beggars the new home can house
Number of female beggars the new home can house