No matter where we live in Mumbai every day when we leave our house there is a 100% chance that there’s a beggar waiting out for some money and we give them, just to get away from them but are you sure that the money you just gave was really needed by that person?
One day an incident happened with me, when two small girls came to me near Andheri station and asked me for some change, when I asked them for what do they need money for to which they replied “we haven’t eaten anything for 2 days”, I insisted them to take vada pav and I will pay for it but they rudely denied and started asking for money, I started walking but they grabbed my leg and bag so that I would get irritated and just give them some money. Then too somehow I continued walking but they stubbornly came along with me to my destination which is 15 minutes away from the station. At last, I had to handover them some money to get rid of them.
Based on our research, we found in Mumbai alone, there are about 3.7 lakh beggars and as per government’s estimate and the begging industry has a turnover of about 180 crores annually. Shocked? But wait till you read the rest. Begging is quite lucrative in Mumbai, especially at places like airports, railway station, streets, traffic signals, bus depot and temples where people are easy to engage with.
Begging is criminalized in Mumbai under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959. The act’s aim is to remove beggars from their current illegal profession so that they may be detained, trained and eventually employed elsewhere.
Yet here we are handing out money just to avoid them. The money you gave them is then collected by gang bosses which then is used to import drugs & weapons. So it isn’t wrong to say that, every penny we have given has directly or indirectly funded a crime happing today
We further found some government schemes which have been created to stop poor people from begging.
There are three known schemes, “A beggar” free scheme which was initiated by the Charity Commission with the support of 20-25 individuals, government and NGO’s.
The aim of the scheme was to provide vocational training to the homeless. Next was “National Urban Livelihood Mission” Launched in 2013 aims to provide skill development and employment opportunities along with housing to the urban poor and the urban homeless. And third, was Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna to provide skill training to 1.4 million youth with an overall outlay of Rs. 1120 crore which focuses on fresh entrant to the labour market. They may have promoted that the schemes were a success but, to be honest, there’s no single day when we haven’t seen streets without any beggars.
Let’s dive in a little, as in why nowadays begging is the foremost choice for poor people. There are many causes such as no basic education, physical or mental disability, old age, unemployment, growth in prices and the list goes on. But hey wait, what if we tell you, more than 85% of them are just acting and actually earning more than a middle-class family. That’s true, in 2016 a fire took place in Kalyan and when the fire was put off they found a beggar’s hut stocked with approximately 8 to 9 lakhs. Several other incidents took place where the begging was just a mask. Some beggars were found with property worth 50 to 70 lakhs. When asked by a reporter why they still choose to beg, the answer was “why shouldn’t I? I earn more than you.”
No matter what’s the reason behind begging, it’s nearly impossible to find who is really needy and who is acting needy, but the question still remains, how to stop this? In the year 2017, Dr. Issa Fathima Jasmine of Chennai installed a community fridge for those who are really in need so that they don’t have to sleep hungry. The fridge is stocked with drinking water, fruits, homemade food or leftover food, second-hand shoes, clean second-hand clothes, books, sanitary napkins for women. Every day the societies nearby keep something so that the fridge is never left empty. Also, security cameras are installed so that nobody steals or destroys anything.
When beggars get easy money by begging, they don’t try to get work, they don’t even want to work and their number keeps on growing, as they earn money with zero effort. Mumbai is India’s financial capital and If every office and locality helps to raise funds and most importantly awareness in people then this community fridge can be the best option for us to fight and stop begging.