Begging is banned. But only on paper. Almsseekers are a ubiquitous sight no matter where one goes ~ at traffic lights, market places, Metro stations, Railway stations and, of course, temples. Banking on human kindness, these beggars, of all ages, size and gender, pester passers-by, especially foreign tourists, and can prove to be a huge nuisance.The pathetic looking ones, often disabled or disfigured, draw much sympathy and hence collect the maximum alms.

Then there are the little boys and girls, armed with pens, beads or flowers, who waylay shoppers and commuters. Much has been written about the mafia that exists, which keeps this "profession" alive. It has been documented that this socalled hapless segment of our society is actually fairly well-off. They earn a neat pile of money every day, that too tax-free! There are unconfirmed reports of beggars owning houses and refusing to take up a "regular" job.

Some time last week, a colleague spotted some plainclothes police personnel rounding up these urchins in Connaught Place. When some shoppers protested, the policeman pointed out that these children were actually peddling drugs. He said they are supplied the "packets" at the nearby Hanuman Mandir lane, which, incidentally, is teeming with drug addicts, and were forced to peddle them all across Connaught Place.

While police is quick to deny that they take any cuts or "hafta" from the beggars, raids are off and on conducted to chase them away. But that lasts, maybe for a day or two. And then it's back to business as usual. One can only hope that the authorities take a serious look at this issue and ensure an end to this degrading human and social problem. Not only would it improve the image of the city but will also stem human trafficking and prove to be an answer to some human rights issues.