ByÂ Ashima Gujral:
An inevitable sight on the streets of Delhi is the presence of nagging beggars at every red light in the city. Casual beggars, shabbily dressed women with hungry babies, young kids performing on the footpaths and disabled men and women asking for ‘monetary’ mercy is a sight we see around us every day. And most of the times, either irritated by the constant disturbance or due to the heart-aching sights we come across, we do shell out some change to give to the beggars.
The law strictly prohibits any such activity of giving money to beggars. Reasons are numerous. One being that this money might not be used appropriately as it may only fund drug and alcohol addictions. Another reason being that parents send kids as young as two-year-olds to beg on the streets for supplementary income even though they may still be earning themselves.
A study by the social work department of Delhi University pointed out in its survey of the beggars in the capital that some of them were graduates, even post-graduates and many had received education up to the secondary level. Many of such cases can be attributed to our country’s lack of job securities but seeing the ready availability of manual jobs, such astonishing results only bring forth another aspect of begging — begging for greed and not for need.
I’ll quote two different personal experiences showing the difference in my own attitude. Once, waiting at a red light, an old lady knocked on the car window asking for some money to help her commute to her home since she had no money. Out of mercy, I gave her some. A few days later, I encountered the same lady at the same place in a different attire with the same excuse. Disgusted, I decided to never shell out any money for anyone. This attitude I feel somehow would now make me doubt even the cleanest intentions and make me reluctant even to help someone who is genuinely in need.
A movie like Slumdog Millionaire aptly brought forth the reality of such rackets run by people who train and force kids into begging, stealing and even prostitution. And when such realities are validated and authenticated by the authorities, it deters us all the more to not help those small kids asking for money. This thought prevented me once from giving any money to a kid at a red light who came and started cleaning my car and even after my attempts at discouraging him; he continued doing so but ultimately had to go empty handed. Yes, the heart does pain to see kids who should be going to school and playing but are forced into this profession for no fault of theirs, but the thought that the money really helps them in no way makes me withdraw any help that I wish to give.
The best way I believe is to give food to these beggars instead of money. And also if one wants to help monetarily, better give it to institutions working to eradicate this cause itself. But never give money to beggars. Especially, don’t ever take your wallet out lest you be mobbed or even robbed by a crowd of beggars. Institutions like Maximising Employment to Serve the Handicapped have set examples by providing means of employment to beggars only at one condition — they have to quit begging and have brought self-reliance to lives of many handicapped and disabled people who were otherwise left to begging. We must take inspiration from them and make sure our help reaches the right people in the right way.