Fewer beggars, better business this Ramadan
Shopkeepers, shoppers and mosques notice a drop in number of beggars this Ramadan
Every year during Ramadan, areas such as Geylang Serai and Arab Street usually see an influx of beggars.
But this year, the situation seems to have improved. Shopkeepers, mosques and shoppers have noticed a significant drop in the number of beggars.
"These beggars sometimes scare my customers away," said a vendor at the Ramadan bazaar in Geylang Serai, who wanted to be known only as Madam Faridah.
Another vendor, Mr Hanafi Jaffar, said that during Ramadan a few years ago, beggars would constantly go up to him and ask for "zakat money".
"Three or four years ago, it was quite bad. Then some of them got caught by officers," said the 61-year-old, who has been doing business in Geylang Serai since the late 70s.
He added that he has noticed a difference this year.
Madam Nur Farizan, 28, visits Geylang Serai every year to do her Hari Raya Puasa shopping and she agreed that the beggar situation is much better this year.
The housewife said: "Either people who beg in the streets have been getting the help they need, or they have found somewhere else to loiter."
The Straits Times reported last year that as many as 50 or 60 beggars could be seen around Sultan Mosque during Ramadan. The numbers swell to more than 100 in the days leading up to Hari Raya.
Previous reports also noted that many of these beggars seemed to be from Malaysia, Indonesia and India.
When TNP visited the area twice this week, there was one man in a wheelchair who planted himself near the stairs at Geylang Serai Market.
He was there throughout the morning, but did not actively ask for donations.
Two more beggars, a woman and her child, turned up at the overhead bridge connecting Geylang Serai Market and Joo Chiat Complex at around noon.
The combined efforts of authorities in the affected areas seem to have made an impact.
Mr Alla'udin Mohamed, chairman of Khalid Mosque on Joo Chiat Road, said there used to be beggars on every corner in Geylang Serai.
"But in my experience this year, the number (of beggars) is very low," said the 63-year-old, who has been the mosque's chairman for more than 10 years.
"Last year, we had throngs of Indonesian and Malaysian ladies, especially on Fridays," he said.
"There are one or two cases of foreign beggars this year, but they are very discreet."
He said that previously, the mosque put up signs to remind people not to loiter around, but they were ineffective.
"Now we have people standing near the gates and we remind our congregation not to loiter around," he said.
Mr Zainal Abidin Omar, mosque manager of Sultan Mosque, said they had similar measures on Arab Street to keep the number of beggars down.
The 47-year-old said: "We can't eradicate the problem completely, but we can do our part to lessen the numbers.
"If the beggars come into the prayer hall and disturb the congregation, we will take action and call the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF)."
Said Mr Zainal: "We don't encourage people to ask for donations in the street because there is always a proper channel for people to go through if they need help."
A spokesman for the MSF said it conducts regular patrols with the help of auxiliary police officers, based on public feedback.
MSF also noted that there have been fewer beggars picked up in the Geylang Serai area so far, compared with last year.
"I'm glad there are fewer beggars in the area now," said Madam Faridah. "It's better for my business and it's better for the area as well."
Either people who beg in the streets have been getting the help they need, or they have found somewhere else to loiter.
-Madam Nur Farizan