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Over 180 beggars to be rehabilitated

Picture by Rukmal Gamage.

Within the next few days, nearly 181 beggars from Colombo are to be sent to the rehabilitation centre set up in Rideegama in Ambalantota, where they will be rehabilitated so that they may be gainfully employed later.

Project Director, Ranjith Meegaswatte speaking to the Daily News reiterated that the project is aimed at giving beggars a better lease of life through education, community engagement, empowerment and self-employment.

“The Government has spent 8 crores in setting up 10 buildings at Rideegama for the purpose of rehabilitation and looking out for the social welfare of these individuals,” he said.

“A sum of Rs. 1.5 million is spent every month to ensure that all their needs are met including food, medicare, education, clothing and shelter,”Meegaswatte said.

He added that there are 480 beggars at the centre who are being well looked after.

“Some of the beggars are not only destitute but individuals who are intellectually disabled. Since they are also unskilled, finding them employment in alternative occupations is very challenging. Some of them chose to stay at the centre, and the Government has no qualms about it.”

The Government declared January 1st as the last day for beggars to willingly to get themselves registered so that they could be sent to this centre.

“They are free to come to the office at Deans Road in Maradana or the Ministry of Megapolis, where we will do the needful. There are however those who need care, attention but are too stubborn to seek help and it is here that the police will take them and produce them to courts under the Police ordinance and Vagrants Ordinance.

Once that is been done, they will be taken to the centre,”Meegaswatte addedd.

“Through the same programme, we are offering an employment scheme where a beggar can earn Rs. 1500 a day through a selection of jobs offered through the Ministry. We have already received a positive initiation to this scheme,” he said.

He added that women are also housed in the same location with separate hostel facilities while street children are sent to correction facilities through which they attend schools and find placements and vocational training centres.

Over the last few weeks, the government’s programme to evict beggars from Colombo has drawn flak by sections of the society who have termed it as unjust.

Meegaswatte explained that the government would rather have these individuals, many of who are impoverished and helpless placed into homes where they are not only offered food, clothing and shelter but care and concern.

“This is the only way we can reduce their numbers. We are providing provisions for vocational training within this centre. These individuals have a right to life, and to be productive and valued,” he added.

“The country needs socio-economic welfare measures to help alleviate these individuals from their impoverished lives.

This calls for a comprehensive programme, reorientation of existing programmes and policies. The rehabilitation center in Rideegama is one of many such plans,” Meegaswatte said.