Security officials in the south-central Indian city of Hyderabad began rounding up beggars and other street dwellers in a conspicuously timed operation ahead of a visit by American first daughter Ivanka Trump.
Ivanka will be attending the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, and Hyderabad police decided the run-up to this event was the perfect time to enforce a 40-year-old law that forbids begging within city limits.
Officials insist that the sweep is part of a planned a long-term drive to enforce the law and make the streets safer, and is in no way tied to the first daughter’s visit or the Summit.
“It’s a permanent drive,” an Indian official said to CNN. “The government, since 30 years, have been trying to figure out what to do about them.”
Begging is big business in India and is regulated by Indian organized crime. Beggars are likely to be part of a ring operated by gangs. “There is a mafia or a network behind this who force people to beg or kidnap some children and force them into begging,” the same official told CNN.
Whatever the motivation, the move is troubling still. Beggars are being apprehended and detained for breaking the 1977 law, and they are being processed in prison facilities, though officials insist that only areas and buildings separate from the cell blocks themselves are being used.
“All the facilities are there — security, medical, food — and all the basic amenities are being made to take care of the inmates,” officials say.
Poverty in India is impossible to overlook, and so the optics of the gilded first daughter juxtaposed with the poor masses of Indian streets were always going to be striking. Ivanka has already gotten into hot water for her clothing brand’s inconvenient links to Chinese and Indonesian sweatshops, and officials in both governments are desperate to avoid another Marie Antoinette moment for the Trump administration.