04/03/2009, 00.00
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Dhaka government bans beggars

by William Gomes
Three months in prison for anyone caught asking for charity in public places. The authorities promise to eliminate the phenomenon within five years, but there are about 60 million people in the country living below the poverty level.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - The government of Bangladesh is banning beggars. With a law approved in an open vote, the parliament has decided that anyone who asks for charity in public, or displays handicaps or mutilations in order to obtain money, will be punished with three months in prison.

The law, proposed by interior minister Sahara Khatun, will apply to the large cities in the country, and comes after the parliament included Sylhet and Barisal in the category of metropolis. Together with these two cities in the capital of Dhaka, the new anti-begging law will also go into effect within a month in Chittagong and Rajshahi.

Various humanitarian associations are accusing the government of prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed of carrying out a "blatant violation" of human rights. According to United Nations estimates, about 40% of the more than 150 million inhabitants live below the poverty level. In the capital alone, the number of beggars is estimated to be between 27,000 and 100,000. The government is rejecting the accusations, asserting that the law will uproot the phenomenon of begging within five years, and will ensure greater security for the citizens. Nonetheless, it remains to be clarified how the authorities intend to guarantee the practical implementation of the new directive.

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