Those who reach out to passers-by with their hands or collection jars extended have long been a part of the city’s façade. There are those who say that they should be taken off the streets; there are those who say that they should be left alone. Some are in favour of giving them money, others food, and yet others say that begging should not be encouraged.
In order to find out about the services provided and the actions taken in relation to beggars by Sri Lankan governmental entities, a Right to Information (RTI) application was sent to the Ministry of Megapolis& Western Development and certain information was received.
As beggars are still quite a frequent sight in different parts of the city, the application asked what protocol is followed where beggars on the streets, underground crossings (ex: Borella underground) and other public places in Colombo are concerned. The Ministry’s response was that via the project being carried out by the Ministry, the beggars were sent to the Hambantota Ridiyagama Niwarthana Niwasaya. However, this location did not have enough space to accommodate them all. Therefore, the Ministry requested monetary assistance for the provision of facilities from the Ministry of Sports and Social Development – Southern Province, Commissioner, Southern Province Social Welfare, and Southern Province Sports and Social Development Authority. In such a way, some money was allocated for this purpose. Also, the above ministry, police and the Attorney General’s Department handled all legal matters. In keeping with the decisions of the court, these three government entities have housed these beggars in the Hambantota Ridiyagama Niwarthana Niwasaya.
When asked about the action taken with regard to physically and mentally handicapped beggars in the city, the Ministry of Megapolis & Western Development answered that this will be handled by the Southern Province Sports and Social Development Ministry and Commissioner, Southern Province Social Welfare, and Department of Probation & Childcare Services.