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Meghalaya to make begging a crime

Shillong, Aug 21 (IANS) Meghalaya is set to ban begging in public by making it a criminal offence, officials Friday said.
“Beggars are surely a hazard to society and the sight of pestering beggars is greatly embarrassing for the city as we get lots of tourists, both domestic and international,” Urban Affairs Minister Paul Lyngdoh told journalists.

The government will launch a drive to free the streets of capital Shillong and other important towns in the state from beggars, most of them from outside the state, beginning Sep 1.

“We shall have to push them back to make the city clean,” the minister said.

The government plan to eliminate begging comes after several complaints received by the authorities from locals and tourists about being harassed by beggars.

“We are concerned about the image and environment of our state. The beggars pester people and don’t give a very appealing picture of the city,” John Marbaniang, a community elder, told IANS.

There are an estimated 1,000 beggars in capital Shillong, a city of about 260,000 people.

“Most of the beggars we find on the streets of Shillong are non-locals and must have come from adjoining states or maybe outside the region for a living,” Lucy Lyngdoh, a woman vendor, said.

K. Kharshiing, a Shillong resident, said: “It is true, tourists and visitors are always harassed by these beggars and it presents a shabby picture of our city.”

Municipal board officers and police will launch the crackdown Sep 1.

“Those who are homeless shall have to be kept in some rehabilitation centres for the time being, besides stopping at the entry points those trying to enter the state with the sole idea of making a living by begging here,” a municipal board official said.

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