Wednesday 24 April 2013

Backdrop of Indian Society- Begging

In era gone by begging was the last resort that a person used to adopt, after all means to get fruitful employment failed. It was considered a curse as not being employed was looked down upon. Every effort was made to get out of such a situation.

Slowly the numbers of beggars started to increase. The main reason was education; as uneducated people found it difficult to get employed. Manual labour that the uneducated could do was back breaking as compared the easy life of a beggar. Slowly it dawned on this class of society that it was an easy means of lively hood and also more paying than the back breaking manual labour. In no time the tag of a curse livelihood was thrown in to the winds.

Where there is easy money organised syndicates cannot be far away and where there are syndicates police and politics cannot be far away. In no time begging became an organised business with police backing and political patronage.

Begging as a business was taken in the right earnest. Training was imparted as to how to invoke the sympathy of the public. Often kidnapped healthy children were handicapped to invoke sympathy.

Begging at religious places and at traffic light crossing has become a nuisance. Irrespective of where you are positioned on the social ladder, everyone has experienced this harassment by these beggars in our society sometime or the other. Friends let me take the liberty of narrating one of the personal experiences of its own kind.

One fine day, I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green while deep in my thoughts, until consistent knocking on the car’s window pulled me out of my reverie. Upon looking up, my gaze was met with that of a teary eyed old lady.

She requested, thoda aage bus stop thak chod dey do beta.

(Please give me a lift till the next bus stand.)
I obliged her.

As we travelled, I asked her the reason of her crying, and she finally explained why she was crying, as her son had died and she had no money to arrange for his last rites.

Iss mulk mein ghareeb ki koyi jagah nai koi gareeb ko nahi puchtha (There is no place for the poor in this country, no one bothers for poor people here.)

Her torment was heart-wrenching and by the end of it, I had tears of my own. She was dropped off where she wanted to go, with whatever cash I could give to her at that time.

And to my shock! Three days later, on a different signal but in an identical setting, I heard familiar knocking on the window. Looking up, I found the same old lady crying with the similar anguish in her eyes and repeating the same old line!

When asked if her son had died, ‘again’, the aged beggar just laughed callously and went away, leaving me astonished, perplexed and offended at this cruel, unfeeling deception.

There’s no denying that today in India there are many people who live under the poverty line and barely manage to make ends meet. Even the irony of today is that some pursue selling their kidneys, while others look for potential clients who would ‘buy their children’. This sorry state of affair witnesses no end, and our government has failed miserably when it comes to Human Development.

But this should not let beggars take advantage of the situation and play with people’s sentiments; people like you and me are fooled by their emotional blackmailing tactics. We want to help and make a difference in their lives, but we are discouraged by their dishonesty and it is hard to gauge who is sincere and who isn’t.

I have come to understand that ‘professional’ beggars are not needy, they are greedy!

Ask any one of them to work instead of begging, and you’re met with deadly stares and rude remarks make you feel as if you have committed a crime and shake the ground you’re standing on. Request them to leave you, and the knocking on your car’s window gets revengeful and even more persistent. Some even fire abusive words at you, while warning you that they will pray for you and your family’s demise. If their prayers were effective then in the first place they would not be begging.

At times when you offer beggars your change, they refuse to take it and state with up-turned noses that they want more, and that the amount offered is petty. They often say, I do not take alms from beggars.

These beggars are known to work in groups that overtly and covertly have political backing, while the police merely stand as miserable spectator. Even if an anti-begging operation or a law is carried out and a locality is cleansed off this malignant disease, one can witness a repeat arrival of the beggars in no time. I do understand there might be some who may be ‘forced’ to beg because of their economical conditions, under duress, or out of habit, the state and its citizens treat them like a constant source of irritation but nobody does anything about it.

Our government has yet to come up with a proper rehabilitation or human development plan and its execution. The adopted plan of action should not only provide ‘roti, kapra and makaan,’ (bread, clothes and housing) but must also help inculcate a useful set of skills that will assist them in earning a dignified income, without having to harass people in the hopes of fishing money out of them.

This should be coupled with counselling done by trained volunteer or doctors (who are willing to help) in order to install a sense of self-sufficiency.