After labourers, it is the turn of the beggars to be sent packing – this time from Delhi. The argument is simple: their presence will leave a bad image about India, which is hosting the Commonwealth Games in October 2010. The Delhi chief secretary, Rakesh Mehta, wrote a letter to his counterparts of 10 states in this regard asking them to take back their respective beggars.
How it is possible is a different question. But then why should only the 10 states be asked to take back beggars? It is said that 95 per cent of the 60,000 or so beggars in Delhi are migrants. A Delhi University study of 2006, which the chief secretary quoted in his letter, said that 27.25 per cent of these beggars come from UP, 17.10 per cent from Bihar, 7.17 per cent from Haryana, 5.72 per cent from West Bengal, 5.67 per cent from Rajasthan and rest from Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.
But why not send back professors, scientists, doctors and researchers of IIT, AIIMS, JNU, JMI, DU, ICAR, etc., journalists working in various media-houses, engineers engaged in building underground Delhi Metro, flyovers and stadium for Commonwealth Games? More than 95 per cent of them are from outside Delhi. We throw out our slum-dwellers, most of them who live in them are the same labourers who made all these huge infrastructure. Now beggars, who are the by-products of the same policy. How selfish the approach is!
Yes, it may appear bad to see semi-clad, pot-bellied children begging at the red-light when you are driving your air-conditioned swanky cars. The best way is to keep your eyes shut, abuse them and curse them. It is another thing that you may spend hundreds of rupees daily on wine, cigarette, etc. Or your kid may be spending Rs 10,000 on dog while the employee who is taking care of it may not be paid even Rs 5,000.
True, beggary is bad and some of those indulging in this practice do not deserve any help – they may even be drug addicts. But a huge majority of them are really needy. One cannot take an ostrich-like approach without getting into the bottom of the fact. No, they are not the people who shirk work and need to be penalised. Those who have not worked with them and made any objective study should know that many of these beggars, especially children, are sons and daughters of labourers, rickshaw-wallahs, unorganised workers, etc. who toil the whole day yet are unable to feed their family. Many old beggars are fathers and mothers of those poorly-paid workers. The son gets so less that he cannot even feed his own children, how would he take care of elderly parents?
Two first-hand examples of the beggars need to be cited here. One of the gentlemen working among the downtrodden section of the society once narrated an interesting story about the slum-locality in which he works. He cited the example of a couple, who begs especially in the Islamic month of Ramadhan. He said that when he went to that locality he was told by the fellow slum-dwellers that the husband-wife duo beg every year in Ramadhan not only for themselves, but for those among us who cannot even go out to beg. There are innumerable old and disabled men and women with nobody to take care of. The couple collects Iftar, Sehri, food, clothes and money and distributes to those even poorer than them.
Once again when in the recent winter a social organisation took up the work of distributing blankets among poor, especially Muslims in the slum localities, an elderly lady approached the organisers with a request for blanket. As one of those distributing blankets was listening to her, another local poor, who was supporting the organisers in their distribution work cut-in to tell the elderly lady, “Look, you may be deserving, but see the other person is more deserving because he has so many kids and he has hardly any blanket for them.” The elderly lady did not repeat the demand for blanket. These are the golden examples of high morality, which never comes to light as we just do not want to see and discuss poverty.
Why is it that the beggars beg on crossroads of megacities. Simply because of the shrinking opportunity. They cannot visit the upper middle class homes for begging as the guards outside their bungalows and apartments do not let them enter. They are left to beg either in the lower-middle class localities or outside the masjid, mandir or other places of worship. Yes, the beggars are migrating from other places as due to rise in poverty in rural areas, there are less economic activities in many small places.