There are one thousand and one problems that the people of Karachi have to grapple with, day in and day out. And with the Sindh government preferring to remain oblivious to the key issues, the metropolis is being effectively brought on the verge of a collapse.
What has further compounded the woes of the Karachiites are the organised gangs of beggars roaming in the city. These gangs, who have now turned into a mafia, are deemed to be too powerful for the security personnel to handle, or are often found to be hand-in-glove with the police which has left the citizens of this sprawling metropolis seriously concerned and worried.
Last week, a group of beggars in Karachi attacked the police in the Defense Housing Authority premises, after the South Police Station decided to conduct a raid on a group of professional beggars. The skirmish saw one of the policemen getting seriously injured as the situation went beyond control for the policemen present on the spot. Reinforcement had to be called in and some 40 beggars were rounded up and put behind bars while cases against them were registered accordingly.
“Our anti-beggary unit officials recce the beggars first and arrest them if they think that the beggars in question appear to be professional beggars”, the SSP South Rai Ejaz told Bol News.
In view of the growing number of beggars during the month of Ramzan, the South Police in Karachi have made an anti-beggary unit. The unit had a separate staff and two mobile vans and their work was exclusively to keep an eye on beggars and arrest them.
The SSP South said that the beggary was taking place under the garb of organized gangs. It was not a mere beggary that a beggar came to the street and started begging to make his both ends meet. He said that organized gangs are involved in beggary and they run the mafia.
“Our anti-beggary unit officials recce their activities at different spots. We have identified some spots in DHA and Clifton where the beggars chose those spots for their illegal business. We recce them and thereafter arrest them”, the SSP said.
As far as their involvement in criminal activities is concerned, SSP Ejaz said, “We have not found their involvement in any crime so far. However, we have been interrogating those being arrested and if their involvement is substantiated, we will take stern action.”
Sources in the police said that beggars from different cities and areas of the province and even from areas of South Punjab come to Karachi for begging which has now become a mega bucks business. “The holy month of Ramzan is the favorite month for these beggar,” said Ejaz.
A beggar who introduced herself as ‘Naseema’ at the Zamzama area carried her child with her while begging on streets. She was hesitant to reply to questions and instead kept asking for money and food. However, the little she could divulge was that she earned between rupees 1,500 to 4,000 a day but was not a professional beggar and came down from South Punjab due to her circumstances. “The Karachiites are very generous and open heartedly give money,” she said. “Just yesterday, a lady gave me 5,000 rupees.”
Another male beggar, Rafique who has been begging around the PECHS Society area for over eleven years now, said he he made enough money on the streets to support himself and his family of three. “I am not a skilled person, so I have no other option but to beg. And people do respond if they know our plight. But yes, the professional beggars have made life hell for us because it is hard to discern now who is a genuinely poor person and that factor keep a lot of people from helping us,”he said.
Sources said that according to estimates there were around 25 to 30 million beggars begging on the streets across the country. “Of these, around 80,000 to 130,000 beggars travel to Karachi during the holy month of Ramzan. A large number of them come to Karachi with their families.
As soon as the holy month of Ramazan begins, Karachi is flooded with all sorts of professional beggars who can be seen at public places, at traffic signals, in market places, shopping areas, around eateries, restaurants, and even on recreation places. Poverty, soaring prices, and joblessness are supposed to be the main causes of beggary.
The ugliest aspect of this business is that the beggar mafia exploits children to gather money from people in the name of charity. Some of the security personnel and other sources also confirmed that that no targeted action has yet been taken against the beggar mafia as yet.
“This is simply because there is no definite law under which action could be taken against beggary or it could be treated as a serious crime. Therefore, no concerted action could be taken to break the organised networks of beggars or book the members of the gangs operating in Karachi and other cities,” they said.