We should not judge beggars according to their current circumstances. Even if we are powerless to assist them, we should refrain from accusing or criticising them.
The public perception of beggars is that they are impoverished; that is all. Do individuals rarely consider anything other than why they are involved in practice of begging? Let us attempt to understand why people beg and what are the public impressions for beggars? Human life is insecure and fraught with dangers and uncertainty. The concept of poverty plays a critical role in elucidating the term “begging.” Some people beg because they are victims of poverty vicious loop, implying they were born poor and their parents are beggars. Second, they are pleading for assistance due to a tragic event such as the death of a family member in an accident, natural disasters such as floods, loss of property, health problems, e.t.c. Some people beg due to psychological distress, such as company or job loss, family shock, or dispute with family members. Certain individuals become beggars due to mistakes made at home, in society, or via stealing, and they are scared to return home due to family pressure and other factors. They do not return home and do engage in begging. Children are primarily used as beggars by gangs who steal children at festivals, hospitals, and public areas and force them to beg. Some beggars are commercial beggars skilled at the family level but do it for profit. With this context in mind, we want to highlight a few instances of beggars; why they are involved in menace of begging? Our recent research study on beggars witnessed responses full of pain and agony. One among the beggars responded, “we were slum dwellers in Delhi. My spouse and son were killed in a fire accident. I have a married daughter; I decided to visit her and live with her; I went to her for refuge, but some individuals had captured her and forced her into dangerous activities. Regrettably, she is engaged in unlawful activity. She is a sex worker and a call girl. She has divorced her husband, whom we married; she now lives separately from him and his son in a private rented flat and socializes with males. She requested that I look after his son at his residence. I stayed with her for a few days. I looked at his son, and she was returning from a party late. As a mother, I am embarrassed and have requested her leave this situation. I felt terrible and have chosen to leave her. Life became really difficult for me at this point; I became the victim of a second shock from my daughter. I sobbed and stayed near temples, begging for food from strangers and outside mosques. I made the decision not to beg. I approached a couple of businesses to inquire about items to sell , but they denied asking for my personal information, such as my address or identity. By living beneath the open sky, I was compelled to join begging. In addition to not having enough food at times, others frequently treat us poorly when we ask for food or money. As a result of the harsh weather and freezing temperatures, they are confronted with numerous health and personal issues. At times, police officers have beaten us; life continues. There is considerable suffering. I am getting older; I have no one to turn to and am at a loss on what to do.
A misery revealed by the second beggar. “What am I begging for? My misfortune. I have a son who is currently a doctor in the UAE; I owned property and a house and worked as a labourer when I sent him to pursue higher education; I sold my land to cover his tuition and other expenses. I took out debt against my house to expect my kid to become a doctor and that we would have a better life later. I lost my wife during this period, and my son became a doctor and relocated to the UAE. He was calling me on the phone following her mother’s death, but he did not answer or return the call. The moneylender has seized my home because I could not repay his loan. I am pleading for help as a result of my son’s dishonesty. He is the source of my pleading. I am insane and living in peace with my companion beggars. I have nothing to lose at this point. Will die; eventually, that is all”. The next beggar also shared his agony. “I am from Bihar and havestolen 70,000 rupees from his home in the previous two decades. And when I went to Mumbai, I had a great time and spent all of my money on wine, fine food, and hotels, traveling to many places, and doing a lot more. Almost four months ago, I survived on this money. I took to the road, as I had nothing in my pocket. There was one choice to return home, but I chose not to because I was convinced they would kill me if I returned. I chose not to return with this perception and began residing outside temples. I am begging for money and carrying wine to help me forget about the horrors in my life. I have no idea whether my parents are still alive or not”. The other beggar while sharing his pain mentioned, “I worked as a skilled worker and operated a machine at a factory when I lost both legs in an accident. I have a wife and two children. I had to sell everything to pay for my treatment. Neither was I able to return to work. My wife attempted to find work but was unsuccessful. Then we began begging on the streets outside the hospital. People donate food, but life is difficult since we rely on others. They are sometimes joyful and give us food money out of fondness, but other times they treat us badly, and we get quite disappointed”. We must be aware that begging is not by choice but due to the difficult and unforeseen circumstances for the beggars. We should not judge them according to their current circumstances. They are replete with tales, anguish, and squabbles. Even if we are powerless to assist them, we should refrain from accusing or criticising them. The policymakers have a role to play with good policies in place for beggars. The attempt must be to indulge beggars in some rehabilitation so that beggars at least are able to earn the basic facilities of life.
( While Firdous Ahmad Malik is Senior Research Associate in Jindal Center for Global South, Dr.Shahid Amin Trali is Associate Professor at SOM, ITM University Gwalior. Views are their own)
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