India was once known as the ‘Golden Bird’. It was not only the center of trade and exchange but also of academics and learning. People came from far and wide to witness the magnificence of India. This all changed after the advent of the British. The British wanted to gain this golden bird and trap her forever.
They exploited her, suppressed her and oppressed her. The golden bird fought and defied the British rule. She wanted to get out of her shackles. On 15th of August, 1947, she succeeded in getting rid of her shackles. She was able to fly again. But, by the time India got independence, she was not golden anymore. Years of foreign rule had left her poor and destitute.
After 70 years of gaining independence, India has now become the 6th largest economy in the world, and will soon beat its own oppressor, ‘Great’ Britain. It is the largest and perhaps the most vibrant democracy in the world. India has come a long way since its independence, which is truly commendable.
But there are still some issues and problems that India faces even now. The shackles of oppression are replaced by many other shackles that hold back India from flying high. One such shackle is the problem of beggary in India.
A beggar is a homeless person who begs for food and money from other people and lives through this money and food. A person begs because she has no choice but to do so. She is homeless, and cannot gain employment due to many reasons. Maybe she is disabled or crippled.
Maybe she is so old that her body does not allow her to work. Such a person has no option but to beg. There is no other way in which she can live.
Thus, she becomes a beggar, helpless due to her unfavourable circumstances. This is why people resort to begging. But the situation in India is far from this. In India, begging has become somewhat of a profession.
Begging as a Profession in India
Begging in India is an age old practice. Begging even has religious sanction in some situations. Sadhus and Fakirs live charity. It is their way. Since childhood, as Indians, we have been taught to give charity with the one hand while the other does not come to know.
We have been taught to be kind and give charity to those who need it. We have been taught to share what god has blessed us with. Perhaps, it is this nature of the Indian morals and values that people who make begging their profession, take advantage of.
Begging is now not only done by people who are desperate and destitute or Sadhus and Fakirs, but also by able- bodied people, families and gangs who have made it their profession. It is common sight in India to find a family of husband and wife, along with their children to cry and beg for money in railway station, traffic lights, roads, outside temples, malls, shops, etc.
Many children who beg often carry another small child. Some others are crippled, while others won’t leave a person till they get some money. This is done to garner sympathy. In this way, parents, who themselves do not work use their children to ‘earn’ money by begging.
They not only play with the children’s future and deprive them of education and childhood, but also raise citizens who will grow up and do the same thing, as they do not know how to do anything else.
Begging thus deprives the country of talent, resources and productive citizens. If these three elements are not present, how can India as a country develop?
In India, begging gangs also exist. People who make begging their profession form local gangs to further their begging. As their gang becomes strong, no one goes against them. These gangs commit various crimes too to earn money through begging.
People’s hearts melt when they see a helpless young child with bleak eyes and dirty and tattered clothes. To take advantage of this fact, these gangs steal very young children from their homes and parents and scare them, punish them and train them on how to beg. Such children are so young that they don’t even remember their homes, and sometimes even the city that they belong to.
Every day, these gangs take these children to various locations like traffic signals, temples etc., to beg and get money. At the end of the day, they take away the money that the children have and if they could not collect more than a certain amount, they beat and harass these children.
When it seems that a child is unable to earn a certain amount daily, these gangs cripple the child, by cutting off a hand or leg, making the child blind, etc., so that the child can garner more sympathy and money from the people she begs from. Such is the cruelty that these innocent children have to face. This is the bleak reality of beggars and the ‘begging industry’ in India.
These gangs often bribe the officials and police officers who thus ignore the plight of the children. The children are thus caught in a spiral of misfortune and doom with no way out. They become helpless and have no choice but to obey their abductors. Some poor families even sell their children to these gangs. The future of the child is completely destroyed. Such is the nature of beggary in India.
Beggary also promotes laziness. Able bodied people who do not want to work live on charity by begging. They basically leech off the society. They do not do any work and just live off charity, when they can work. They become a menace and a burden to the society.
Then what can be done? Of course, beggary has to be done away with. Begging helps no one. Begging is also demeaning. When people see able bodied people begging when employment is available, they should not give money away to such people.
Rather than giving money to children who beg, people should give these children food, or other resources. When they see a young child begging, they should inform the police or call child welfare services. Such children should be helped and rehabilitated.
Old and crippled people who have no one they can depend on, should be helped by rehabilitating them old age care centers, NGOs, etc. The government should form stringent laws against beggary in India. The underground that operate and thrive through beggary should be caught and its members should be severely punished.
Officials and police officers who took bribes should be suspended and punished. And, to prevent people from resorting to beggary again, the government needs to make and implement poverty alleviation policies for the betterment of the whole society.
We, as citizens of India need to be careful and alert too. After governments implements stringent laws, we need to report about beggars to the police. We need to report to the police about children around us that we see are begging. They need our help. It is our duty to help them.
Even in our ancient texts and teachings it is written that charity is a noble task, but charity should be given only to people who actually require and need it. Providing charity to people who can work is condoning their laziness. There is also another popular saying, ‘God helps those who help themselves’, which is indeed true.
This would only be the initial step. Beggary is a problem that plagues the Indian society. As said earlier, it is a shackle that needs to be broken for India to fly and soar freely. Only when this problem is done away with India can truly develop. It will take a long time for beggary in India to be stopped, but an action needs to be taken now!