As usual I was hurrying for preparing myself to office . It is office time , yet another gruelling day ! Having done up , totally ready, I stepped out for office . While driving thro lanes, small traffic posts I had to wait in the busiest traffic post , in the main market area.
It was 10.20 a.m.; little late than my usual time of crossing that traffic junction. My mind was busy thinking the jobs to do in office, assignments to complete, meetings to attend, clients to handle , that elusive business targets to work on …a mind occupied with a mixed feeling of uncertainty, anxiety, excitement . While still waiting for Green signal to move , my thinking got disrupted by the knock at the door of my vehicle.
A lady with a very small child was asking for some money to feed the child .In the scorching heat , the lady & child were looking very tired , the child seemed to have severe cold , was crying & coughing . The lady was frantically calling me for help looking at traffic signal in between as if she knew , once it is Green , she will loose yet another chance to get some ” coins ” .
It was such a pitiable sight , I felt so sad for them & wanted to give the lady Rs10 or 20 . At the same time another wave of thought advised me not to give any thing . I started thinking -it is a farce , it is a business ..who knows whether the lady holding the child is her mother or the child , a hired one for this emotional blackmailing business ! why cant she work and earn a livelihood ?She is not that very old or sick .While my compassionate heart was all for helping her generously my suspecting mind instructed me not to encourage such fake practices for easy money ! ! Though the tussle between my heart & mind continued for few moments & I finally decided to give her money , I could not give any . The signal turned Green & taking out money from wallet removing seat belt was not possible . I was completely out of time .
Though I got otherwise busy in the office ..that knocking sounds at my car door , that innocent sick coughing child’s face were constantly with me . I felt like cheating someone after committing to help .Determined to search & help that lady in the evening on my way to home at that particular junction , my efforts did not yield any result , she might have gone elsewhere . Spotting an old man asking for alms nearby , I gave Rs50 , who , little unprepared for the windfall gain went on showering blessings on me .
While still to commute another 10 km to reach my home , I just pondered about the helplessness of many of us to do anything for many such destitutes we come across everyday . A busy , materialistic life & an indifferent attitude always take a toll on our other side of being human being !
Still driving back home in a less congested traffic roads/lanes late in the evening , I could not stop focusing in my thoughts , on the other little information on this everyone’s-part-of-life issue named ” BEGGING “
In a country where one in every 4 goes to bed hungry every night & 78 millions are homeless , it is not very uncommon to find Beggars at road sides, traffic signals, under flyovers .. According to a Govt report , beggar population is more than 4.00 lakhs with west bengal topping the list with > than 80000 beggars & lakhadweep with least number of them .The figure appears to be very conservative as the surveys independently done , indicate much more .
According to a survey by Delhi school of social work, over 3.00 lakhs beggars are there in Mumbai alone. As per 1931 census , % of women beggars was 16 % of total beggars which has increased to 49 % in 2001 census & there are 10 millions street childern .
Typically , though the problem of begging stems from situations like prolonged poverty, unemployment & non-utilization of available resources , subsequent studies reveal – Begging as a livelihood wins over casual labouring , because average daily income of most beggars is Rs80 or more . According to Govt. of Maharashtra , Rs180 crores is the worth of beggars in Mumbai !
Almost all surveys show Beggars are largely contended lot unwilling to take up honest labour. Survey of Delhi school of social work shows 26 % of them are happy , 81 % claim they dont face any problem while begging , they find it a viable business . Only 15 % feel they are at times humilated by police or public . But a study published by International journal of psychological Rehabilitation states that they ( Beggars ) suffer from one or another Psychiatric illness, history of addiction , many feeling of shame ,guilt , 4 % of them with suicidal tendencies & 8 % of them with anti -social tendencies .
Traditionally we as a nation have upheld the virtue – ” giving alms to needy as an accepted way of life ” As a result Begging has always thrived to exist & expand . The saddest part is helpless & innocent children have been used to bolster the begging activity in the organized begging business space . The small children at times are reportedly hired per hour from the poor parents to arouse the sympathy from donors or the body parts of small children made defunct to get more attention & money .
Though there exists the juvenile justice ( care & protection ) of children Act 2006, Right of a child to free & compulsory Education ( RTE ) Act 2009 , Child labour ( Prohibition & Regulation ) Act 1986 , a 24 hour child help line # 1098 ( childlineindia.org.in ) , the Child Begging has gone unabated .
The definition of Beggar in laws states – as any one who appears poor . The legislation ( anti-beggar ) aims at removing the poor from the face of city . There are provisions for vocational training in the Govt. run beggar homes , many say these homes are worse than the 3rd grade jails where the inmates can spend up to 10 years .Moreover , the Beggars who have spent years on the street & outside a homely zone , find it difficult to live in the confined space .
The silver line , however is that , there are few good NGOs , philanthropic organizations , humane individuals who are trying their best in providing free hostels, free education , vocational training to unprivileged children & others by collecting donations, sponsorship, clothes, foods etc . People working in these field prescribe however – not to encourage Begging habit by giving Rs1 or 2 , as such givings lead to growth of Begging cycle .
With such a background & thoughts wandering over this complex socio-economic issue , I just wonder : where do we go from here : Should we stop rekindling our kindness, empathy when we see the painful sights of a begging senior citizen , a helpless aged mother like lady , an innocent deprived child on the road , bus stop , station , fly over or elsewhere ?
It is very hard to force stop your natural urge to help the destitute , passing by them – not knowing fully who is fake & who deserves our little care and help .
Though a comprehensive program entailing a philanthropic , therapeutic & rehabilitative actions , sounds logical & practical as a solution , I may still think to keep the door of my compassionate heart open for the needy & deprived , may be for best results, in association with good NGOs & others working for these people .
Let the Kindness , Love , Care prevail for these special people of the same society we live in.