LAHORE-The city roads and streets are swarmed with beggars, mostly women and children, but the government departments responsible for checking this menace refuse to act.

The fight against beggary mainly involves the Social Welfare Department, Child Protection Welfare Bureau and the Punjab Police. The Literacy Department and Punjab Vocational Training Council hold training courses for the beggars.

The Social Welfare Department’s only rehab for beggars in the city has been dysfunction since January 17, 2017, thanks to mismanagement of the authorities concerned. Located in Raiwind, the Welfare Home for Beggars has capacity to look after 100 beggars, says Robina Sehzadi, the woman in-charge of the facility. She says: “The staff is ready to deliver but no beggar has been brought here for the last two years.”

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar announced a crackdown on beggars this week to ensure “smooth flow of traffic”. According to a spokesperson for the police, over 450 cases have been registered so far under the anti-beggary campaign.

According to Child Protection Welfare Bureau Chairperson Sarah Ahmed, the chief minister is committed to uprooting beggary. “There are 800 children living in shelter homes of the bureau, which has treated 50,000 children since its inception,” she said.

Child rights activist Ifthikhar Mubarak said a lack of coordination among various departments was a major hurdle in achieving the targets. “Just rhetoric will not improve the situation,” he said and stressed the need for a coordination among the Social Welfare Department, Punjab Police and the Child Protection Welfare Bureau. He said that lawmakers were oblivious of the Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act, 2004 that says people pushing children into beggary should be put behind the bars.

He cites the law as saying, “If a person employs a child for begging or causes a child to beg or, having the custody, charge or care of a child, connives at or encourages employment of the child for begging or uses a child, or encourages employment of the child, for begging, he/she shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years but which shall not be less than three months and with fine which may extend to one hundred thousand rupees but which shall not be less than Rs10,000.”