South Asia

Bangladesh to survey beggars in the capital Dhaka

A blind woman begs in Dhaka (file photo)
Image caption Many beggars in the Bangladeshi capital are disabled, like this blind woman begging in Dhaka

The authorities in Bangladesh are to carry out a survey of beggars in the capital, Dhaka.

The aim is said to be to find out the root cause of their problems and to offer them alternative livelihoods.

There are believed to be 40,000 beggars in Dhaka alone, a city of 12 million people.

Despite the government's efforts to abolish begging, the practice remains widespread in the capital and other parts of Bangladesh.

The survey, which gets underway on Friday, is the first of its type and the method involved has attracted criticism.

Every day, hundreds of beggars can be seen on the roadside, at traffic signals and outside commercial buildings in Dhaka.

Many of them are physically disabled.

The beggars will be registered under different categories including seasonal or irregular, disabled, women and children.

The government has enlisted ten non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to carry out the survey.

Opposition to survey

Bangladeshi Social Welfare Minister Enamul Haque Mostafa Shaheed says the aim is not to drive away beggars but to find ways to help them.

"We will help those who want to go back to their villages to restart their lives," he said.

"We will give them vocational training. For some others, we are ready to give old-age pension. For the rehabilitation programme, we need precise information about the beggars."

However, some human rights groups oppose the survey method.

They said that as begging is banned in the capital, there is a danger that anyone who admits to being a beggar could be considered an offender.

But the government says those who come forward to take part will not be punished.

Social activists say the survey could be a big challenge as beggars are constantly moving around the Dhaka metropolitan area.

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