Rich men in begging business
People are going to think twice before giving alms to beggars if reports that a syndicate is behind what is now considered a flourishing begging business in the country prove to be true. The Department of Social Welfare is investigating the activities of the syndicate, which is said to be recruiting destitutes from the rural areas to engage in begging in Accra and other cities.
The syndicate is said to comprise some rich businessmen and women who exploit the destitutes to make millions of cedis annually. The syndicate does not only recruit the poor, but also targets disabled persons such as the blind, the deaf and cripple.
Mrs Mary Amadu, acting Director of the Department of Social Welfare, who disclosed this in an interview in Accra, therefore, appealed to members of the public who have any information about the syndicate to assist the department in its investigations.
She said the syndicate has become big business involving the use of taxis and other private cars, which convey the destitutes and drop them at vantage points in the cities, particularly at traffic intersections, to carry out their business.
Mrs Amadu said the beggars are picked at the close of the day by members of the syndicate or their agents. She said beggars are paid based on the sales they make in a day, adding that in most cases they are exploited. According to Mrs Amadu, what is particularly disturbing is the fact that children of school going age are engaged by the syndicate to guide the beggars. The result is that many more children are denied access to basic education thereby thwarting the government's FCUBE programme and widening further the rural-urban development dichotomy.
According to Mirror investigations, the syndicate normally arranges with watchmen who guard various offices and businesses to enable the beggars to sleep at locations near such premises for a fee. This arrangement, according to our investigations is to forestall the situation where the beggars would get to know the living places of members of the syndicate.
The director said begging is not a dignified job and that it is criminal to engage in it, adding "those involved in the act will be sanctioned". Mrs Amadu noted that while poverty might have largely contributed to the increased incidence of begging, parental irresponsibility has also played a part and entreated parents and guardians to be more responsible for the upkeep of their children.
She called on Ghanaians to be guided by the positive values of the extended family system, which she said holds the answer to the increasing spate of destitution in the country.
She said over 400 beggars reported to the department for training when an announcement was made for beggars desirous of training and added that the 400 was just a fraction of beggars in the city. Mrs Amadu said her department has plans to train destitutes in order to equip them with skills and vocations to become self-employable.
Although she complained that the department lacks funds and logistics to undertake a comprehensive rehabilitation of the destitutes, Mrs Amadu said her department has concluded arrangements to convey beggars to Somanya where there is a rehabilitation home for screening and rehabilitation.
She said beggars willing to return to their hometowns would be assisted to do so. She expressed frustration at the rate at which trained destitutes quickly abandon their trade, sell their tools and equipment and return to beg on the streets of Accra. This, she said, is because the beggars earn more from begging than engaging in productive ventures. She pointed out that in some African countries, destitutes have been trained and organized into co-operatives to produce handicrafts for exports.
She said her department has nine rehabilitation centres nationwide where destitutes could be trained and indicated that about 1000 people could be trained annually. She expressed government's determination to improve the lot of destitutes and commended non-governmental organisations which are engaged in the training of the less fortunate people in the society.