The moment you stop your car at the traffic red light, you see a dirty looking woman with a child in her arm come running to you or a little boy with running nose banging your car window or a handicapped old man asking for alms. This is a common sight in India. You will find many of these people in the railway stations, metro stations, tourist spots, in temples and in many areas where there is a regular crowd. At times, out of sheer pity or out of fear from being cursed by God or out of irritation, we tend to give them some coins or money and shoo them away.
Begging in India for Poverty
Begging is one of the most serious social issues in India. In spite of its rapid economic growth, India is a poverty-driven country, which is also leading to the growth of beggars in the country. Most of them come from Bangladesh and some of them are from India. There are few beggars in the country who actually are the real ones, who beg because they are handicapped, because of their inability to work or because they are old or blind or because they really need money for basic needs. There are many others who live far below the poverty line and opt for begging to earn their livelihood.
In some cases, we find the entire family is involved in begging. The family members keep on increasing with marriage and birth and each of them gets into begging on streets or temples. Children of such families do not go to school but only beg. They have to do begging because their family’s income is not enough to feed the entire family in a day. Here, poverty is one big reason for such a situation. But at the same time, begging is not the solution for such a situation.
Begging in India as a scam
But poverty is just one side of the story. Poverty is real in India but not begging. Begging in India has become a big racket in the country. For many, begging is just like any other profession. They go out to earn money, not by working, but by begging. In fact, there are begging gangs in cities like Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Kolkata etc. These gangs have their own gang leaders. Each leader allots a particular territory for a group of beggars and the day’s earnings are shared among them. The gang leader keeps the larger share. These beggars are so involved in begging that they don’t want to work elsewhere. It’s strange but true that some of these beggars earn in thousands and lakhs, much more than a normal middle class worker.
It is very difficult to find out who is a real beggar and who is not because looks are very deceptive. Even the children with their dirty faces with pleading looks are properly trained to beg and look real. Sometimes our heart melts when we see a young woman holding her tiny baby, begging on the streets. In most cases, the baby is found sleeping. This is a scam. Many sting operations have revealed that babies are rented to give credibility to begging. Sometimes, babies are drugged for the entire day so that they look sick and they can be easily carried from one area to another by the young women beggars.
The beggars are trained to become very persistent while begging that you are bound to give them money. This is especially true for foreigners when they do not know how to react in such situations and ultimately give money to the beggars. Some of the young beggars also become anti-social elements of the country. They get into drugs. To buy drugs, they start with begging first, then slowly graduate to pick pocketing and then move on to bigger scams like robbing and killing.
What should we do?
Begging has grown at a significant rate in India. It is estimated that half a million people in India are beggars. The government, varied organizations, activists claim that many measures have been taken to abolish begging and it has been successful to a certain extent. But the trend of begging still continues. We are also to be blamed. We as Indians are very orthodox, God-fearing and have a religious frame of mind. This compels us to do charity. And one easy way is to visit a nearby temple and give alms to the beggars there.
But as the citizens of this country, it is our moral responsibility to stop this menace and the best way is to stop giving alms. It might seem that we are very heartless in not giving money to a little child begging on the street, but this is one step that we can take to prevent begging. If more and more people come out and take a pledge that they are not going to give a single penny to any beggar, irrespective of their need, I am sure, beggary will then be completely uprooted from our country. Meanwhile, let the government continue with its poverty alleviation schemes and make India a better place to live in.
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