The Delhi government pumps in Rs 5 crore a year to run the Lampur facility, located in an industrial area in Narela, on Delhi’s outskirts in the north. This is a government shelter for beggars, which has 70 rooms. The funds go mostly to pay staff salaries and for expenses for the kitchen. There are 11 staffers but no beggars who reside here. Records state that no beggar has been sent to the Lampur facility in 2016. According to a report in The Hindu, the last time the shelter was used close to capacity was during the Commonwealth Games, when the then Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, carried out a massive cleanliness drive.
Begging is an offence in Delhi under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, (the Act extends to the capital) and beggars are picked up by police and social welfare officials, often. They are produced before the Magistrate at Kingsway Camp. “But they are left off due to lack of evidence, and also since no rehabilitation program exists. Their livelihood is hit if they are remanded,” said a senior social welfare department official.
Arvind Singh, a cook, is not a beggar, but he chooses to be seen as one. For three months now, the 60-year-old man has been the only ‘beggar’ residing at the Lampur’s government’s shelter. But he is to be released after living ‘too comfortably’ at the shelter. He has had three ‘personal’ care takers who are his friends, and enjoys benefits like lodging, free food, medical treatment, clothes and toiletries. His room has a cooler, television set, a single-bed and a small ‘temple’ with idols kept on his trunk. He gets a kilo of milk every day and fruits as snacks.
The Magistrate had ordered Arvind Singh to be let off. “But I requested that I be sent to Lampur,” said Arvind, “and he took pity.” Arvind first arrived in January 2014, but after his release, it took him six months to be caught again. “I plan to spend the rest of my life here,” said Arvind.
Arvind isn’t the only one. The superintendent of the facility, Shiv Narayan Singh said Rajesh, another beggar, lived at the facility for almost 16 years. “His father was with the Meerut police and yet he would keep coming back,” Shiv Narayan Singh recalls. The single-storied Lampur home on 22 acres with five unkempt gardens shares the compound with the Foreigners Detention Centre which houses around 40 foreigners, mostly Africans and Pakistanis. The home has a drug de-addiction centre also.
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