29 March 2007

More on Begging

I came across the following article today, which has direct bearing on the question of begging in Moscow that's we've covered here in the last few days. The full article by Dmitry Babich appears on his blog at Russiaprofile.org, echoing the comments of an anonomous reader responding to La Russophobe's article on the subject. I've reproduced some of the more relevant parts below. In the very least, I guess this means no more giving money to the women with "borrowed" children...

Protecting the Future
Stronger Measures Are Needed to Safeguard Russia’s Children
By Dmitry Babich

Begging and homeless children have long been a scar on modern Moscow's face, and recently the authorities have attempted, one more time, to remove it. Minister of the Interior Rashid Nurgaliyev suggested adopting a law that will make the use of children in soliciting money a criminal offense punishable by a jail term.

Similar suggestions have been made before by members of Moscow City Duma, also irritated by the view of those ubiquitous middle-aged ladies, loudly begging for money inside subway cars or standing on the most crowded corners of the Moscow subway with babies or small children in their arms. Nurgaliyev, as well as the Duma deputies, were informed by police that most of these ladies were not the mothers of the children they used to squeeze an extra ruble or two from compassionate Muscovites.

Instead, these women, most of whom are not Russian nationals but rather citizens of former Soviet republics, were part of large criminal networks, which "borrowed" or even bought children from their drinking, impoverished or irresponsible parents. Nurgaliyev suggested cracking down on both the networks and the parents. Stories about drugs used to prevent the children from weeping during their "work" certainly added to the minister's indignation. "We need to take effective measures against the parents and the guardians who abstain from

fulfilling their duties," Nurgaliyev said at a meeting of the Government Commission on the Protection of Minors’ Rights, of which he is the chairman.

The commission's members suggested jailing not only the organizers and "field workers" of the criminal soliciting business, but also the parents who allow their children to be subjected to this kind of abuse. Several public organizations protecting the rights of children have even encouraged people on their Internet sites to make citizen's arrests of women begging with children, demanding their IDs or taking them to police precincts inside the subway for identification.

Both the minister's suggestions and the activists’ calls for action would deserve all kinds of support had it not been for one obvious fact: the begging ladies and their bosses in criminal networks are obviously in cahoots with some police officers and, possibly, with some people inside the subway administration. How else could they show up at "work" in the same places at the same time in the metro filled with cameras and police patrols? "Try to sell a newspaper or play a guitar for five minutes in the metro without paying a "tax" to the metro administration and you will see who the real owner of the metro is," said Vladimir Khimanych, the chairman of the Svoboda Voli civic group fighting, among other things, the abuse of citizens' rights by policemen in the subway. So, if the policemen are so good at stopping illegal vendors and unauthorized musicians, why are they so passive with beggars?

The ties between the police and the beggars make the suggestion by the country's main policeman look a little hypocritical. As for the groups' calls for direct action, in effect they put the life, health and reputation of an "active citizen" in danger, as he or she may end up confronting not only a small fish, but also its protector. "Only a policeman is authorized to stop this kind of abuse," Khimanych said. "I see no way a private person can legally stop this kind of woman, identify her and prove her guilt."

Cracking down on criminal networks will not be effective without a crackdown on the corrupt subordinates of Nurgaliyev himself. But this is a much less pleasant and more risky thing than legislative suggestions and commission meetings...

...As for the problem of children begging in the Moscow subway, I am afraid it will stay with us, even if Nurgaliyev imposes his draconian measures on beggars with children. As poverty and illiteracy spread in the former Soviet Union, particularly in Central Asia, there will be no shortage of people willing to use their or someone else's children for this, one of the oldest trades on earth. And as long as this business brings dividends to criminal networks and corrupt police officers, it will continue.

1 comment:

Mike Tyukanov said...

My own rules of thumb are: never give to anyone begging in the metro (the exception is the case of babushkas trying to be inconspicuous), never give to mothers with babies, never give to invalids, never give to church collectors: all of the above are mafia.

The church collectors are all false, real churches are allowed to fundraise on their own premises, or on the premises of other, richer parishes.

The invalids are sometimes bogus (tricks to conceal legs and arms were known since medieval times), sometimes genuine, but the genuine ones are foreigners from Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus, trafficked by mafia. As a result, they don't get their governmental pensions, but are getting stuck in virtual slavery to their mafia handlers. They keep nothing from alms they get, only food and shelter.

Women with babies, of course, are the worst of this caste.

Some babushkas are mafia-controlled, too. There is no sure way to tell which is which, but generally those who are genuine are shy, trying to evade cops. They usually just stand with a palm up.