Saturday, January 26, 2008


Bangalore, Anil Kumble Circle, where St.Mark's road meets MG Road.

As you wait at the 90 second long red signal, it doesn't take long for a child of about 8 or 9 to emerge at your windscreen and begin wiping at it with a dirty rag. You don't want it, you tell the kid. That doesn't bother him, he continues wiping. With that, he presents a practised expression of helplessness. He's been taught this, you can tell. Then he abandons the attempt at cleaning, almost on cue, as he sees he need to play the sympathy card next. He emotes and expresses hunger, helplessness, poverty. He's ready to jump on to the air-conditioned vehicle you are comfortably sitting in, even as it moves. It does not affect you, you have seen the trained expressions of pleas all too often, from him and his friends. You drive on, the signal has turned green.


The question that lurks in the minds of the conscientious: does giving alms encourage the act of panhandling? And If I refuse to give them a tiny part of my earning: my conscience pinches me. What if he really has no way of getting a job? I'm relatively well off and I denied a hungry man food. Something I have taken for granted every moment of my life. What if you had to think about how and where to get every next meal of your life?


The elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, the unheeded. They beg.

And then there are the able-bodied, fit enough to find work, but they don't want to do anything else. They don't want to earn their income by providing some value in return for it. Why?

There is the unwillingness to get out of the comfort zone one has slipped into, asking for alms and maybe earning even more than they might have otherwise.

Some have made a profession of begging. Some have made businesses of a moderate scale of this profession. Networks have been built to manage these businesses. Territories marked. In the midst of this, a child is exploited, a woman beaten, and robbed of what little they do earn for their abusers.


Are you okay with people earning their living this way, while you work hard for your earning? Are they not working, braving weather and the condescension of people, for measly wages, albeit providing no value for it? What about the children who work for them, the ones who should be at school, but are being taught instead to engage in emotional trickery to get alms from people? Would you give them a job if you force them away from this means of living? Would you be able to find them one? What is the solution to this?

“Charity does not mean that the land should be full of beggars. We can provide some support and means for the beggars, but provide food, clothing and other conveniences in such a way that you are not encouraging laziness and begging.”

- Sri Sathya Sai Baba (Indian spiritual leader, b.1926)


AjAy said...

Very aptly put!! I remember some years ago I was involved with an NGO and we picked up beggars off the streets. We gave them a patient hearing and gave them food, shelter and a job to do. Depending on the person's abilities (both physical and mental), we trained them to do different things.
After about a week or so, the number of people reduced to less that half.

Later we found them back in the same place place we picked them and doing what best they did, BEGGING!!

We went through the motion around 3 or 4 times before I got fed up and quit!! {I was quite a hot head at that time! ;)}

I dunno what happened later......

Food for thought???

Warriorwithin said...

namaskara .......
i agree ....its better to teach a begger how to fish...than donating him some fish(there is one english gaadhe maathu like this...dont know the exact words)...