Poverty – A Major Drawback
One of the major challenges of a developing country is to tackle poverty. High level of poverty is equivalent to low human resource development, poor quality of life, deprivation of daily necessities and above all, illiteracy. Inspite of its rapid economic growth, India is still a poverty-stricken country. It is a serious social issue because poverty has indeed led to an increase in the growth of beggars in the country in recent years.
Each time you stop at a traffic signal, what is the most common sight you see? It is either the sight of an unkempt malnourished little boy, hurriedly approaching your car, begging for money or a dirty looking woman who is carrying a baby in her arms, or more so, an old man who has either lost his arms or legs begging you for alms. Sometimes, it is either out of sheer pity or the fear that someone will curse you. So that they quickly leave our sight. But, this is where most of us go wrong. We should not give them any money because this will only encourage them to continue doing what they shouldn’t be!
Facts About Begging
As per the census data of 2011, there are 3.7 lakh beggars in the country! The question that arises here is that, how is it that so many people are begging? There are so many organisations and NGOs that have started in the country. The Main question is why aren’t they providing these people with a better work to do? But the harsh reality is that there is much more to what we actually see.
Begging is the cause of two reasons. Firstly, most of the beggars are left with no choice other than begging. Secondly, the rest of them rather prefer to beg than work, because apparently, they earn more money from begging than doing anything else.
Many of you might know this. In reality, begging is often performed in organised gangs. While poverty does exist, but in order to beg in a particular area, the gang’s leader organises the begging. Each beggar hands over their money to him/her, who keeps a significant amount with themselves. What is even worse is the fact that, beggars often disfigure themselves to get more money. Hence, It is common in both child beggars as well as the adults.
Human Rights Commission Reports
According to reports and the Indian Human Rights Commission, upto 40,000 children are kidnapped in a year, and are in turn forced to beg. To add to this, the whereabouts of more than 10,000 children remains unknown. The abduction of these children for the purpose of begging is not only beaten up but also drugged so that they do not run away.
Many times it happens that, a whole family is involved into begging. In fact, the parents of child beggars send them off to do the begging on days when they cannot or do not want to beg themselves. This is one reason why the police can do very little on their part. They assume that the children are with family members. Also, there are hardly any laws on how to deal with child beggars because it is difficult to punish them at such young age.
A number of social work has been brought up. It is in order to reduce the menace of begging. But the major problem that arises is, for most of the beggars, begging has become a habit, they rather want to stick to it. And as mentioned before, they make more money through begging than you could imagine.
The Common Begging Sights
Beggars can be found almost everywhere in the country. But some of the most common places to find one is in famous tourists spots, temples, any crowded market areas, railway stations and especially at any major traffic intersection. As a tourist who is visiting India for the first time and never witnessing such a widespread poverty, it is difficult to resist giving money to the beggars, especially the children. But this kind gesture does not really help. In fact, the beggars often cling themselves on such tourists and force them to give much more money than they often intend to. Personally witnessing such a sight, it makes us feel shameful, to know that, these people will take such an image of our country back with them.
Reports show that some cities have more beggars than the others. The latest government census data, tells us that, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have the most number of beggars. While child begging is more prevalent in Uttar Pradesh, there are more beggars with disabilities in West Bengal. Cities like, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Odisha, Bihar, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are also comparatively high in the number of beggars present.
Begging Tricks and what is the best way to deal with it
One will find beggars of all kinds, from children to adults, some very clever to some who genuinely beg for money to run their livelihood, but are they all genuinely begging?
Beggars try their very best to pull that string of pity and affection in your heart. Sometimes one will see a woman, carrying a baby in her arms. As if honestly asking you for money in order to feed her baby, but do you know, the babies that maximum of them carry are not even their own? Also, perhaps the babies are sedated, in order to add credibility to their story. What is more saddening is that the real mother rents their baby to the woman in order to get more money from-people, who would give them alms out of pity.
One of the most common scams of begging is, little boys and girls, coming and asking money either for buying books or tell you how they haven’t eaten for days. Most of the times people think, it is better to get them something to eat instead of paying them. It sounds fair too, but what happens after you buy them say a packet of biscuit or a packet of cake, and you leave? You must be thinking that they must be eating it up, but no.
After witnessing a similar encounter, I personally don’t believe the idea of giving them to eat something. Once you buy them their desired item, they wait for you to leave. Then they simply go to the shopkeeper and exchange the item for money, and they give their money either to their parents or the leader of the group. So, no way does it help the children.
It does sound rude or unsympathetic, but we should not give a single rupee to beggars in India. And the best way to deal with them is to ignore them. A lot of times we really want to help some of them. But the only consequence that occurs is that this gesture will take no time to quickly attract other beggars to you. And the main point is that giving them money will only encourage them. They don’t try to work when they see that people easily give them money. Rather, they keep growing in numbers.
Whom You Should give if You Really want to Help
You must always keep in mind how delusive beggars can be. Even children for that matter, their teary eye, and genuine pleadings can make you feel sympathetic. But they might as well end up saying really bad things you wouldn’t expect.
But if you really want to help and give beggars some money. Only give to the elderly men/women and the genuinely crippled ones. It is not very difficult to notice who really are handicapped and who are not. And also remember, never give beggars when arriving at a place, rather give them while you leave. There is always a fear of robbery because nobody can tell what is really going on in someone’s mind.
So, next time think twice before giving the beggars money, especially women with babies, generally, the babies aren’t theirs. And if you really want to bring some change in the society. There are NGOs always looking for volunteers to help them in the betterment of lives of the poor ones.
(P.S: This article neither aims at humiliating our country nor the underprivileged. Everything mentioned above is based on real facts, research and personal experience).
Read This: Poor People: Violence and Justice.