By Jonathan Dsouza
A survey conducted by a social service network Helping Hands Goa in about 8 towns and cities in Goa including Mapusa, Panjim, Margao, Ponda and the beach areas of Candolim, Calangute, Baga, Anjuna etc has found that professional begging in Goa has increased over 200 per cent in the last two years. The number of beggars who are not original inhabitants of Goa has increased almost 250 per cent since 2010, says the survey. The entire survey will be released as part of a book Ohh Goa !!! next month
Tempted by the generous alms offered by the foreign tourists who flock to the beaches of Goa, hundreds of beggars from other parts of India descend upon Goa just before the tourist season can start. These beggars live on the roads for about six months surviving on the alms and dole of the tourists and go back to their native towns during May-June when the monsoon season begins. Some of the beggars shift base either to Panjim or Mapusa with some of them traveling to Margao and further south.
Says Jonathan Dsouza spokesperson of Helping Hands Goa, “We have launched two projects to help rehabilitate beggars in Goa. To start with about 50 able and fit beggars will be trained in some local craft or skill which will enable them to make a living without begging. However, before we launched this project, we conducted a survey in about 8 cities and smaller towns or villages in Goa. The number of professional beggars has risen drastically. Some the beggars even own a house and some land in their native places and have ration cards, voter Id cards or other government documentation to prove their State of origin, but prefer to beg in Goa during the peak tourist season of November, December and January. The law is not a strong deterrent and as the beggars are merely booked for begging and not any other serious offences, they are let off almost immediately.
We also found some sort of a syndicate operating and supporting the beggar’s network. The police must investigate the possibility of such an organized syndicate operating in Goa. The use of children and minors has also increased manifold. About ten years ago all the beggars in Goa were elderly people. Today one sees more children in the age group of 8 to 14 begging on the roads. The children are in groups and though may be seen individually, the moment one child raises an alarm, about 5-6 other beggars appear almost out of no where to support their comrade in alms. We tried to rehabilitate a few children as part of our Helping Hands Save the Children Project, but their parents immediately came and took the kids away. The next day the kids were back on the roads begging,” explains Dsouza.