x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 November 2017

Indian city clears beggars from streets ahead of visit by Ivanka Trump

More than 200 of Hyderabad's poor have been taken to shelters in grounds of two city prisons

Out of sight, out of mind - at least while Ivanka Trump is there: beggars are being rounded up off the streets and taken to shelters before an international conference in Hyderabad. Mahesh Kumar A / AP
Out of sight, out of mind - at least while Ivanka Trump is there: beggars are being rounded up off the streets and taken to shelters before an international conference in Hyderabad. Mahesh Kumar A / AP

Beggars in the south Indian city of Hyderabad are being rounded up and removed from view before a visit by Ivanka Trump for an international conference.

Over the past week, more than 200 beggars have been transported to separate male and female shelter homes located on the grounds of two city prisons, and the authorities have been strictly enforcing a begging ban in public places.

The crackdown seems to be having the desired effect. Hyderabad has thousands of beggars but most have vanished from sight.

Ms Trump is a senior adviser to her father, the US president. Later this month, she is scheduled to be a featured speaker at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, which will also be attended by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

Officials say the drive against begging was launched because of two upcoming international events in the city — the entrepreneurship summit and the World Telugu Conference in December.

Begging is a criminal offence in India punishable by as much as 10 years in prison, although the law is rarely enforced.

"We will complete the clearing of beggars from the city roads by the end of the month," said senior police officer VK Singh.

The beggars have been rounded up from traffic junctions, bus and railway stations and transported by van to the shelters, where they often find themselves separated from their family members. They are being offered clean clothes, a shower and a bed. But they are also fingerprinted before they are allowed to leave and told they could face jail if they are found begging again.

More than 20 per cent of India's 1.3 billion people live on less than $2 (Dh7.35) a day. For many, begging is a last resort for survival.

Beggars tend to crowd around cars at traffic signals, knocking on windows and asking for food and money. They include children as young as five, who weave through dangerous traffic and often perform acrobatics.

A human rights group that runs the two Hyderabad homeless shelters in the grounds of the Chanchalguda and Charalapally prisons where the beggars are being taken estimates the city has 13,000 beggars. About half of them beg because they are poor while the other half want money for alcohol and drugs, said Gattu Giri, an official with the Amma Nanna Ananda Ashram organisation.

The entrepreneurship summit is an annual event that this year will focus on supporting female entrepreneurs. It will run from November 28-30 and is being jointly hosted by the US and India.

Next month, after Ms Trump has left, the police in Hyderabad will begin offering cash rewards to people who inform them of a beggar's location. Police have set up a control room to receive the information, said Mr Singh.

This is not the first time the poor and homeless have been kept out of sight as India hosts international visitors. Before the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, slums were demolished and thousands of beggars pushed out to the edge of the city.