Don’t believe it!

Although begging is prohibited in the Sultanate by law, it is reported to be on the rise during the last few years. And come Ramadhan, it increases manifold. Adding to the so-called ‘anti-social’ activity is the latest online begging, duping people in donating to fake charity organisations.  While the majority of the beggars are from Asian countries, there are locals and people from other Arab countries ask for alms.The aliens are claimed to be from the war-torn countries, such as Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as from Palestine and Pakistan.
Most of them are present near hospitals, mosques, parking lots, shopping malls and parks.
Beggars are also spotted waiting at the ATM machines as well as knocking on doors pestering people for money.
They primarily target people who “look rich” and have a well-rehearsed heart-wrenching story, often involving their families who are either sleeping on the streets or living in a war-torn region and in need of urgent assistance.
Wasim, in his 40s, was spotted at different spots in the capital city with one tale to tell, “I had a fall from a ladder at the construction site. My spinal cord is damaged. I have no money for treatment”.
He approaches pedestrians or shoppers with the same story. When asked about the sponsor or his phone number, he mumbled.
Shopkeepers on the Ruwi High Street say every day they are approached by at least two beggars with ‘accident’ or some other ‘sick’ stories.
“The beggars have a story to fit every situation. For example, they will show you a certificate from a non-existent hospital saying they have to have an operation or else they will die,” said Mohamed, a shopkeeper.
“They convince people with their stories and earn their sympathies. I used to give money to such people in the beginning. Now I ignore them,” he said.
According to data from the Ministry of Social Development, children accounted for 15 per cent of the beggars arrested in Oman in 2017.
Out of the 1,152 beggars arrested, 225 were Omanis and 972 expatriates with 89 below 12 years of age and 86 in the age group 12 to 18 years.
Children and women as old as 60 have been caught asking for handouts in Oman, according to the data, and some of them come from professional family homes with no signs of financial distress.
An official in charge of social development depart was quoted as saying that many child beggars are put out on the streets by their own parents, and return to beg even after they are caught and punished.
A total of 521 were in the age group of 18 to 40 years, which included 320 men and 201 women.
While Muscat Governorate topped the list maximum number of 630 arrests, this was followed by Al Batinah South and North with 203.
Those arrested also include those from the neighbouring countries.
According to the law, anybody found begging in public or private places shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than three months and a fine of not less than RO 50 and not more than RO 100, as per Omani Law.
“If the beggar is not Omani, then he will also be expelled from the country. If an Omani beggar repeats the crime, he will be sentenced to no less than six months and no more than two years,” adds the law.
Also, anyone using children or other help for begging will receive a jail sentence of no less than three months and no more than three years, and be slapped with a fine of no less than RO 50 and no more than RO 100.
The rule applies to those begging in public places such as roads, shops and mosques, or private establishments such as homes and companies.

SAMUEL KUTTY