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The most often quoted definition of Begging lies in theBombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 though there can be some minor variants to this definition in other concerned state laws. As per Section 2(1) of the Act,  “Begging” means-

  1. Soliciting or receiving alms, in a public place whether or not under any pretence such as singing, dancing, fortune telling, performing or offering any article for sale;
  2. entering on any private premises for the purpose of soliciting or receiving alms;
  3. exposing or exhibiting any sore, wound injury, deformity of diseases whether of a human being or animal, for extorting alms;
  4. allowing oneself to be used as an exhibit for the purpose of soliciting or receiving alms;
  5. having no visible means of subsistence and wandering about or remaining in any public place in such condition or manner, which makes it likely that the person doing so exist for soliciting or receiving alms;

The definition however, does not include soliciting or receiving money or food for a purpose authorized by any law or by any competent authorities. The Bombay Act gives powers to enforcement agencies, to arrest without warrant, those persons found begging, and put them in any certified institutions for a period of 1-3 years. If any person, who was detained in a Certified Institution, is found begging again, he shall on conviction for the first time can be ordered by the Court to be detained for not more than three years and on conviction for the second time, for a period of ten years. Further whoever employs or causes any person or child to resort to begging can be punished with imprisonment for a term of 1-3 years.

Presently, there is no Scheme of the Central Government on Beggary nor there is a central law on the matter. The States are responsible for taking necessary preventive and rehabilitative steps. Around 22 States / Union Territories have enacted their own anti-beggary legislation or adopted legislation enacted by other States/UTs. Existing State Anti Beggary Laws

 Sl.No. States/Union Territories States Legislation in Force
1. Andhra Pradesh The Andhra Pradesh Prevention of Beggary Act, 1977
2. Assam The Assam Prevention of Begging Act, 1964
3. Bihar The Bihar Prevention of Begging Act, 1951
4. Chhattisgarh Adopted the Madhya Pradesh Bikshavirty Nivaran Adhiniyam, 1973
5. Goa The Goa, Daman & Diu Prevention of Begging Act, 1972
6. Gujarat Adopted the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959
7. Haryana The Haryana Prevention of Begging Act, 1971
8. Himachal Pradesh The Himachal Pradesh Prevention of Begging Act, 1979
9. Jammu & Kashmir The J&K Prevention of Begging Act, 1960
10. Jharkhand Adopted the Bihar Prevention of Begging Act, 1951
11. Karnataka The Karnataka Prevention of Begging Act, 1975
12. Kerala The Madras Prevention of Begging Act, 1945, the Travancore Prevention of Begging Act, 1120 and the Cochin Vagrancy Act, 1120 are in force in different areas of the State.
13. Madhya Pradesh The Madhya Pradesh Bikshavirty Nivaran Adhiniyam, 1973
14. Maharashtra The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959
15. Punjab The Punjab Prevention of Begging Act, 1971
16. Sikkim The Sikkim Prohibition of Beggary Act, 2004
17. Tamil Nadu The Madras Prevention of Begging Act, 1945
18. Uttar Pradesh The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Begging Act, 1972
19. Uttarakhand Adopted the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Begging Act, 1972
20. West Bengal The West Bengal Vagrancy Act, 1943
21. Daman & Diu The Goa, Daman & Diu Prevention of Begging Act, 1972
22. Delhi Adopted the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959
State laws can be seen from the site of lawsofindia run by PRS.

Most of these legislations have provisions for punishment of persons who employ or cause persons to beg or use them for the purpose of begging.

Even though there are no specific central laws, Section 24(1) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 provides that whoever employs or uses any juvenile or the child for the purpose of begging or causes any juvenile to beg can be imprisoned upto three years and shall also be liable to fine.  Those who abets begging are also liable for the same punishment. Section 363A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) provides for punishment of a person who kidnaps or maims a minor for purposes of begging. Unauthorized vending/hawking and begging in trains and Railway premises is an offence under the provisions of Section 144 of the Railways Act, 1989.

Child beggars are treated as children in need of care and protection under the "Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS)" being implemented by the Ministry of Women and child Development. Further there are many government schemes for destitute men and women so that they do not take to streets. (For instance, under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) central assistance is also provided to States for giving pension to persons above 65 years, living below the poverty line, @ Rs. 200/- per month, which is meant to be supplemented by at least an equal contribution by the States.)

There is currently a thinking that any anti-begging legislation should stress more on prevention and rehabilitation of beggars and should curb the evil of what is called as 'organized begging racket' especially in cities, places of religious importance, etc.

Persons like beggars, pensioners, etc., who receives income without doing any work are regarded as "non-workers" as per census of India and a state wise estimate of such non-workers are generated. As per the Census 2011, the number of Beggars, Vagrants etc.  in India is as follows:

Age group Persons Males Females
Total 372217 197725 174492
0-4 6549 3363 3186
5-14 34736 18747 15989
15-19 13973 8256 5717
20-24 14742 8746 5996
25-29 16880 10064 6816
30-34 17979 10615 7364
35-39 20769 12391 8378
40-49 48068 28173 19895
50-59 53146 28169 24977
60-69 75455 35368 40087
70-79 48907 23227 25680
80+ 19181 9528 9653
Age not stated 1832 1078 754
15-59 185557 106414 79143
60+ 143543 68123 75420

However, these figures may be an underestimate of the number of beggars in India. For instance, Census 2011 states that there are 2073 beggars in Delhi. When the Government of Delhi had sponsored a survey of beggars in Delhi, in 2006 it reported the estimated (projected) number of beggars at 58,570. (However, out of surveyed beggars, 6 were found to be graduates and 4 were post graduates. As per the report, 22 beggars earned between Rs. 200/- to Rs. 500/- per day.) To take a cue from another related statistics, during the year 2006,  around 1,17,779 number of unauthorized vendors etc. have been arrested and prosecuted under section 144 of the Railways Act, 1989.

As per the first Socio Economic Cast Census of 2011 6.68 lakh or 0.37% of the rural households derive their income from Begging/charity/alms.

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