The Odisha government has launched several welfare schemes to aid economic development and financial stability of the poor and orphans. However, it seems the 'train' with loads of schemes has derailed in midway as the needy are yet to access the benefits.
While the State government has made initiatives to make different cities beggar free, the rising number of beggars showcase the altered situation.
The Odisha government had launched an integrated scheme with aims of ensuring protection, care and rehabilitation of beggars- SAHAYA. However, the current scenario describes something else.
In just 2 years, the number of beggars across the State including the Capital City has increased by 580 and is about to reach 7, 000. While, Silver City Cuttack tops the list with over 1, 060 beggars, Bhubaneswar is not far behind in the race.
Several incidents have come to the fore where older persons abandoned by son-daughter-in-law or daughter land on streets and, to feed themselves, opt for begging. Moreover, destitute and poor people who have no source of income are forced to beg to fill their empty stomachs.
One such person, Rama Behura, is leading life as a beggar since the past 35 years. She lost her two young sons in a tragic incident while the other son is unable to feed everyone in the family with a low income. Same is the case of Basanti Nayak who is begging in front of Chandi Temple for 10 years now. Her only son and daughter-in-law abandoned her and after losing dwelling she landed on-road and took to begging as her profession.
Odisha Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Minister Ashok Chandra Panda on December 4 informed the State Assembly that a total of 6,970 beggars have been identified in the State, of which 4,128 are male and 2,842 are female beggars. However, no child beggar has been reported.
While Cuttack tops the list, districts like Bargarh, Bolangir, and Ganjam have over 500 beggars each. Meanwhile, around 418 beggars have been identified in Khordha district. On the other hand, Boudh, Deogarh and Kendrapada are reported the lowest number of beggars.
Cuttack Municipal Commissioner Ananya Das has assured that settlement of beggars will be done in the district under 'Beggar Home' initiative.
"We have plans to establish a rehabilitation centre under the initiative and proposed the Social Security & Empowerment of Persons With Disabilities Department (SSEPD) for the same. We will streamline it as soon as we receive confirmation," said Das.
Meanwhile, Bikash, a Social Organisation is working closely with Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) for achieving the aim of turning the Capital City'Beggar Free'. Till date, over 300 beggars have been rescued in Bhubaneswar. The organisation is waiting for a green signal from the government to increase the number.
However, the Opposition has raised questions at the Odisha government over the issues and failure of the integrated schemes. The Opposition cornered the State government saying why the answers didn't match with the questions?
Answering BJP MLA Nauri Nayak's question, the State Minister Panda had stated about 6970 beggars existance in the State while the figures changed to 6793 when he replied to the saffron party's MLA Mohan Majhi. Moreover, the Opposition has lashed out at the ruling government over the rising numbers of beggars in the State.
Congress Spokesperson Nishikant Mishra alleged that the schemes for the poor and beggars are just in pen and papers. "No action has been taken by the government and it is quite obvious from the rising figures," he said. He further added that the government should put things in place so that no one turns into a beggar.
Meanwhile, BJP Spokesperson Dilip Mallick said, "No beggar scheme in Odisha is a big failure. The government is overlooking the poor and orphans for which the number of beggars across the State is rising."