Today in the Roadways bus, on my way to the university, as usual I was busy on my phone, just about to clear the last level of the crossword puzzle, my favourite song jingling in my earphones when I got a slight push from the back by a lady making her way to the door in the jam-packed bus. It was then that I returned to reality from my solitary fancy world and I glanced outside the window. There outside Sec-32 hospital I saw a man in tattered clothes struggling hard to lift a box of kashmiri apple to put on his cart. He might not have fetched my attention but there was something unusual about him. He had both elbows amputated and thus his task of lifting an ordinary box had become a challenging one. It was a deja-vu for me. All the people like the disability of his’ I had seen before were in one common profession-”Begging”.
Yes! It may sound funny but begging is a lucrative profession in India. Hilarious it is but begging in India is a Rs.200 crore industry. On an average a panhandler earns Rs.24,000 a month (with all taxes exempted!) which is equal to a white collar job salary. Quite a remunerative job, isn’t it?
One may not surprise that there are even gangs and syndicates whose leader takes a bigger share in all that is earned through begging and distributes the rest among members . As business models go, these syndicates are run by a ‘faceless boss’ or a ‘master’. Under his leadership beggars need not work round the clock but work in shifts and still get daily fixed wages. All you need to learn is-’The art of Begging’.
Yes you read it right- The art of Begging. “It’s not just about standing and asking for money, but one must know how to play with the emotions of the donor and also the apt place to go and beg.”, I heard these lines once from one of the two mendicants I was standing behind , while they were busy dividing their ‘hard begged money’ amongst themselves, of course unaware of my presence.
The beggars of this century have mastered the art of begging and dressing up accordingly. They realize that it is very difficult to refuse to a seemingly hungry man begging just outside the restaurant you came out after having your favourite meal to your heart’s content. Sometimes a woman begs in the name of her husband on death bed in hospital and his husband doing the same at the adjacent street in her wife’s name. (Not forgetting to mention here about the famous elderly lady who is seen quite a number of times in my university and asks for money for the same reason each time- The cremation of her son. Quite disgusting and painful it is!)
Some even beg in the name of their ‘family tradition’ and what tale they have, to quote-”Even lord Shiva ran his household once by income collected by begging among rishis and sadhus.”Really Hats off! How easily they justify their act of begging, hiding behind the curtains of religion.
“If they have chosen to stay in the lowest rung of the society what can we do?”, said a friend of mine to me.”I mean, just look at them no work, no deadlines no tension to look good, happy-go-lucky life!”, he added. Little did he realize while saying so that this menace is not just limited to begging, but underneath it flourishes many more serious crimes like human trafficking, murders, smuggling s and what not! (Who doesn’t remember the “’Slum Dog Millionaire’, the movie depicting the nearest picture of this epidemic.)
It’s okay, in fact good to be generous to disabled and elderly and help them. It makes much more sense if you give food to the hungry child begging to you instead of money, coz the money you give them has a decent chance of going to some elderly criminal or even some mafia.
Instead of enjoying the thrill of bargaining with that man with the amputated limb, I saw and more like him struggling hard to earn their livelihoods and simply refusing to switch to begging, it is certainly more liberal to give him 10-20 bugs extra rather than flaunting your generosity and money in front of your friends by giving it to some not so needy beggar. But the imperative to not giving money does not mean we have to turn our backs on them. Instead, donate alms and money to the NGO’s and other government organizations working towards the rehabilitation of the pauper and beggars.
Because-”jab hum Badlenge, tabhi to Badlega India!”