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Beggars up in alms

Islampur, March 2: In Murshidabad, a group of beggars have sought to be choosers.

Forty-two visually challenged beggars, who have formed a union that the Intuc is backing, will block a state highway for an hour on March 10 to “inform” people that they want at least Re 1 in alms.

The beggars will demand that they be allowed to seek alms in buses and that at least two seats be reserved in private buses for the physically challenged.

The Murshidabad Zilla Pratibandhi Union is probably the only such organisation of beggars in the state.

Haider Ali, the president of the union, said: “We will block the Behrampore-Karimpur state highway to create awareness among people so that they give us at least Re 1 in alms.”

But won’t such a protest antagonise the section they want to enlighten? “We don’t think the people will be angry with us because everyone knows that 50 paise does not have any value these days,” he said.

Haider said the union had been making the demands for a long time. “We had written to the district administration several times but to no avail.”

The district secretary of the union, Ghulam Mustafa, said the decision to block the road was taken at the union’s general body meeting today.

Mustafa alleged that bus conductors behaved “rudely” with beggars. “Most of them do not allow us to beg in buses,” Mustafa said.

The Intuc general secretary in Murshidabad, Narayan Chandra Das, said the Congress union supported the cause of the beggars.

The sub-divisional officer of Domkal, Pushpendu Mitra, said: “I cannot comment on how much alms one should give to visually challenged beggars. But I will speak to the regional transport officer to ensure that two seats are reserved in both public and private buses for physically challenged persons.”