The petitioner, who filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay high court in 2019, has sought an urgent hearing regarding the proliferation of beggars after the relaxation of lockdown norms and the condition of child beggars in view of the pandemic. The petition had earlier sought directions to the state and local authorities to clamp down on syndicates that control and push children and women into begging, by invoking the provisions of the Maharashtra Prevention of Begging Act, 1960. However, in light of the Covid pandemic, the petitioner has sought an immediate stop on begging activities and to rehabilitate the women and children in homes so that they may be safeguarded from contracting Covid-19.
The PIL filed by Dhyaneshwar Darwatkar through advocate Shekhar Jagtap was based on a 2016 survey conducted by Rainbow Foundation, an NGO. The survey had revealed that there were more than 10,000 children involved in begging only in Pune city. Of them, nearly 83% belonged to families that live on streets while 15% were street working children and 3% were children who lived alone on the streets.
In light of these figures, the petition had sought immediate measures to stop begging activities on the streets by children and women and to initiate action against police officers who allowed such activities.
After hearing the submissions in 2019, the court had directed the Pune authorities to file a reply.
On Wednesday, Jagtap moved a praecipe for urgent hearing of the petition on the grounds that as lockdown norms had been relaxed, thousands of children had started begging. As children are susceptible to Covid-19 which poses a threat to them and to general public, an urgent hearing was sought. The praecipe also sought compliance of the orders passed in the previous hearing.
The petition is expected to come up for hearing on Friday or the next week.