Odisha begins rehabilitation of beggars in Puri

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government on Tuesday started the first phase of rehabilitating 500 beggars in the pilgrim town of Puri for which it has sanctioned funds, officials said.

Six shelter homes called ‘Niladri Nilay’ have been set up where the rehabilitated beggars will be provided shelter, free food and health care facilities, said Puri Collector Balwant Singh. Each ‘Niladri Nilay’ has a capacity to accommodate 50 beggars.

There are 366 regular beggars in Puri besides seasonal ones visiting the temple town during festivals, they said.

According to a survey, about 1,000 beggars frequent Puri on different occasions and are found begging on roadsides.

The government will rehabilitate only identified permanent beggars in the seaside town, which is a popular tourist destination.

About Rs 3,400 will be spent to meet the food, shelter and health requirement of each beggar, the officials said.

The beggars have been categorised as physically handicapped persons, mentally challenged ones, aged persons, leprosy affected and those with drug addiction. While the rehabilitation of three categories of beggars will be made at ‘Niladri Nilay’, there will be special arrangements for leprosy patients, an official said.

Since Puri is a terminal railway station, many destitute people from different parts of the country arrive to the temple town by trains and adopt begging as their means of livelihood, the survey found.

It also found the presence of at least 15 minor beggars in Puri town.

Apart from the officials of Puri Municipality, the government has engaged NGOs to counsel the beggars to stay in ‘Niladri Nilay’ and quit begging. Efforts will be given to make them self-sufficient by imparting skill training, an official said.

The NGOs engaged in the process have been told to generate a data bank on beggars and get details of their families.

Each beggar family will be persuaded to take back his relative after the rehabilitation process, an official said.

According to Social Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disability (SSEPD) minister Ashok Chandra Panda, there are 5,950 regular beggars across the state with the highest number of 1,060 beggars in Cuttack district, followed by 545 beggars in Ganjam district, 485 in Mayurbhanj, 423 in Sundergarh, 366 in Puri, 344 in Bolangir and only 3 in Deogarh district.

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