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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Andhra Govt pays Rs.5000/- compensation to beggars to keep away from Godavari Pushkaralu

Pushkaralu (in Telugu), [Pushkaram] is a festival of worshipping rivers.   From time immemorial, rivers are considered sacred in India.  Ganges is supreme, while for Srivaishnavaites, river Cauvery is considered sacred than Ganges itself.   The famed Godavari Pushkaralu is on having commenced on 14th July 2o15.  The temple town of Bhadrachalam is witnessing congregation of over a crore devotees and slightly lesser numbers nearer Godavari bridge near Rajahmundry and Kovvur. 

Rivers are sacred,  important, source of fertility, providing employment opportunities to people, keeping them happy and healthy.  It is nearer major rivers, civilizations prospered.  Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Mahanadi, Brahmaputra;  Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej; Kaveri, Godavari, Krishna, Palaru, Pennar, Thamarabarani  – there are so many of them.  Most of the holy places in India like, Varanasi, Haridwar, Talakaveri, Nasik, Ujjain, Patna, Bhadrachalam, Sri Rangam are situated along with the banks of  holy rivers. The TriveniSangam in Allahabad is a confluence of 3 rivers the Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythological Saraswatiriver.

The river Godavari is the longest river in Southern India and called as “Dakshina Ganga”.Godavari pushkaram( గోదావరిపుష్కరాలు ) is a festival of River Godavari which occurs once in 12 years.During Godavari pushkaram pilgrims from all over the country  come and have a holy dip in the river.   Godavari originates near Nasik in Maharashtra, flows  1,465 kilometres, first eastwards across the Deccan Plateau then turns southeast, entering the West Godavari district and East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, then  splits into two watercourses that widen into a large river delta and flow into the Bay of Bengal.  Nearer Rajahmundry it is  "Akhanda Godavari".

Even as thousands are converging at the banks of the river Godavari, the Andhra Pradesh Government has come up with a novel scheme to keep beggars away from the crowded ghats where Godavari Pushkaralu is now being held — they've been told to take home Rs 5,000 as compensation for loss of income and steer clear of the grand event.  The administration announced the scheme along with the promise of free food on condition that the beggars keep off the Mahakumbh of the south till July 25.

TOI Hyderabad edition reports that a new problem confronts the Godavari Pushkaram Organising Committee (GPOC): hordes of people, and not all of them beggars, are queuing up for reparation.  It is reported that more than ,000 beggars were seen thronging almost all the Pushkaramghats, particularly the 17 main ghats in the temple town, since the beginning of the holy river festival on July 14.  According to rules of the government initiative, only beggars without ration cards and access to welfare schemes like the NTR Bharosa pension scheme are eligible to the largesse.

East Godavari collector and GPOC member H Arun Kumar said CM Chandrababu Naidu took the decision to reimburse beggars to curb disruption that could be caused by them during the Pushkaram. "So far, we've identified 200 beggars within the town, but surprisingly others are approaching us as well. We'll provide reimbursement to genuine beggars after verification at the end of the Pushkaram," Kumar is quoted as saying.  The committee is also running a check on the fingerprints of beggars and matching these with ration card data to ensure reimbursement claimants are not fake. "The beggar reimbursement scheme is not new for Naidu. The government had used the same trick to shift beggars from Hyderabad to a rehabilitation centre during President Clinton's visit in 2000," a police officer said.

A beggar at PushkarGhat said, "I've no home or income and have been begging here for the past decade. I can't go from here to some other place. Moreover, the entire town is packed with pilgrims. I want to ask the government who is responsible for people like me seeking alms?"

Going by recent events, beggars in Andhra Pradesh may well suffer from cognitive dissonance. They are faced with a unique situation where the state government can both arrest them and pay them for being into begging.Yet, at the same time, Andhra Pradesh, like most other states in India, has a law criminalizing begging- the Andhra Pradesh Prevention of Beggary Act, 1977.In 2010, the government also notified rules which allow a police officer above the rank of sub-inspector to arrest people found begging without warrant. If the person is found to be physically fit and still indulging in begging, he or she can be sent for detention in a workhouse for up to three years.

The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which most states have adopted as an anti-beggary law, has a wide definition of what constitutes “begging.” It includes not just soliciting alms, but also having no visible means of sustenance, or “wandering about or remaining in any public place in such a condition or manner, as makes it likely that the person doing so exist soliciting or receiving alms.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
22nd July 2015.

Inputs : Times of India; photo credit -

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