India Is Hiding Beggars In Jail So Ivanka Doesn't Have To See Poor People

by Summer Lin
Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

As President Trump continues on his 12-day tour through East Asia, police in Hyderabad, an Indian city with a population of 9 million people, have reportedly begun removing beggars ahead of Ivanka Trump's visit to India later in November. Ivanka will be in the South Asian country for the three-day Global Entrepreneurship Summit on Nov. 28. In preparation for her arrival, officials are removing beggars because they don't want her to see the city through the "slum dog millionaire" stereotype, according to ABC.

Police have already removed nearly 400 beggars from Hyderabad's city center and relocated them to a rehabilitation center at Chanchalguda Jail, citing "danger to traffic and public in general" as the reason behind the move. Before the summit later this month, officials are aiming to remove 6,000 more beggars into centers and shelters for the homeless.

Begging is criminalized in India through the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act 1959, which aims to remove beggars from the streets with the goal that they can be trained and employed somewhere else. The act is rarely enforced, however, and officials in Hyderabad have said that the ban will only be enacted until the first week of January to coincide with Ivanka Trump's visit. Anyone who is found begging in public until then will be jailed or fined.

Questions have come up surrounding the ethical implications of corralling thousands of beggars off the streets in order to maintain pristine appearances for Ivanka Trump's visit.

“Some beggars argued that we were taking their freedom to live anywhere they want but we told them it was for their own good because they are going to the rehab centre where they will be taken care of,” an unnamed official told the Indian Express.

Madhu Purnima Kishwar, Indian academic and human rights activist, has also said that the ban on begging was “cruel” because it “criminalizes poverty," according to USA Today.

Although rounding up beggars in India is not unprecedented (the city did a similar sweep in 2000 when President Bill Clinton visited Hyderabad), one of the main problems is where officials will house the homeless people once they've been ushered off of the streets.

“The preparations are happening in every corner of our city," George Rakesh Babu, founder of the homeless charity Good Samaritans in Hyderabad, said. "But the prison capacity in Hyderabad is not enough to look after all these people.”

Babu said that the central jail's maximum capacity was only 1,000, according to the Washington Post. However, Hyderabad had nearly 3,500 homeless people, according to a survey conducted in 2014.

As local police tweeted out pictures of beggars being rounded up, the sweep was not unwelcome to all of the people in Hyderabad. Some have responded positively to the ban on beggars, with some expressing desire for Ivanka Trump to extend her visit to Hyderabad beyond the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, because the "city would be clean during your stay."

Officials have also tried to justify the ban by saying that the beggars are “employing children and handicapped persons to seek alms at the main junctions of roads,” according to the ban order. “Such acts are causing annoyance and awkwardness by exposing in an indecent manner to divert the attention of the vehicular traffic as well as pedestrians and public in general to induce them to give alms."

Economic inequality is a huge problem in Hyderabad and the ban on begging is reflective of such. In recent years, the city has attempted to reframe itself as India's Silicon Valley and has attracted big-name tech companies, including Apple, Google, and Microsoft to station their global firms and headquarters in the city, according to The Washington Post. While Hyderabad has attempted to rebrand itself as a global capital, the gap between the rich and the poor has grown in India in recent years, according to the Economic Times. For many homeless people, they still rely on the middle-class denizens for food and resources.