South Asia

India officials investigate deaths of dozens of beggars

Chief Minister Yeddyurappa and other officials visit the centre
Image caption Conditions at the centre have been described as unhygienic and inhuman (Photo: K Venkatesh)

Officials in the Indian city of Bangalore are investigating a spate of deaths at a camp for beggars.

At least 100 inmates have died in the government-run camp on the outskirts of the southern city this year, 27 of them in the past week.

Activists accuse the state government of negligence and say conditions in the camp are appalling.

The government says the deaths were due to natural causes and deny food poisoning is to blame.

The authorities have ruled out foul play.

'Curse'

Karnataka's governor ordered the inquiry following a public outcry which has seen the state's social welfare minister sacked.

Stung by criticism, Chief Minister Karnataka BS Yeddyurappa visited the camp and promised to improve basic amenities.

More than 2,500 inmates live in squalor at the camp and diseases there are rife, correspondents say. There are just two toilets for every 500 inmates.

The camp was set up to keep beggars off the streets and provide them with carpentry and other skills.

But critics say standards of hygiene at the centre fall far short of what is unacceptable.

"The way the inmates of the beggars' colony are treated is inhuman and uncivilised. There is only one doctor for over 2,000 inmates," said Siddaramaiah, the leader of the opposition in the state assembly.

Gangamma, an old woman at the camp, said she and other beggars had nowhere else to go. "We have no choice but to live here. It is a curse."