It was on Friday that the Greater Hyderabad Municipal authorities picked 70-year-old Bijli Pentamma from the streets of Moosarambagh in Hyderabad where she was found begging for alms. In a mission that aims to create a beggar-free city, the GHMC is picking up beggars and taking them to Anand Ashram, a rehabilitation centre for beggars in the premises of Cherlapally jail.
While Pentamma settled comfortably in the ashram, which is run by the Cherlapally jail, a routine check by authorities took them by surprise. They found an amount of Rs 2,34,320 in Pentamma’s bag and also silver bangles and a chain she was wearing. Though it was first thought that the amount was collected through begging, Pentamma later revealed that she belonged to a well-to-do household, and also owned land and other assets.
Speaking to TNM, jail superintendent of Cherlapally jail MR Bhaskar, said that in 2011 Pentamma sold a plot of land that belonged to her for Rs 2 lakh and gave half of the amount to her elder son, who lives in the city. “Pentamma kept the remaining amount to herself. She later left home and took to the streets and began begging. She also had a younger son who died a few years ago,” the officer said.
Bhaskar also said that they contacted her younger daughter-in-law who said she would come to the ashram and take the elderly woman home. “We tried contacting the elder son, but it seems he is not keen on taking care of his old mother.”
The authorities suspect that Penatamma began begging after her sons disowned her, and begging was an easy way to earn some money. “She had around Rs 1 lakh when she left home and added another Rs 1,34,320 to her kitty by seeking alms in the past seven years,” Bhaskar said.
The jail authorities took Pentamma to the nearby State Bank of India (SBI) and opened a savings account and deposited the money in her name.
“We are not quite sure if the daughter-in-law would turn up to pick up the old lady,” the officer said, adding, “but Pentamma keeps saying she is afraid to sleep at night [on the streets] because of the huge amount of money that she kept to herself all these years.”
When the mission kicked off in November last year, the jail authorities had come across a woman, an accountant in London, who returned to India and took to begging to overturn her ill luck. She was later allowed to go with her son, an architect who lived in India, after he submitted an affidavit with the police.