Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Just over a week ago, I wrote about an experience I had with a beggar woman in Connaught Place and how that had really shocked and impacted me. It is something I think about several times a day. Since then, I have received a few messages from people and also had a couple of conversations about this and have learned a few things I didn’t know before. I could be wrong in some of this information and I have done some research online and anyone is more than welcome to correct and educate me as this is something I find myself getting more and more into.

I was first informed that a lot of the women that are carrying babies while begging are actually sharing the babies. While the women themselves may “work” for several hours, the babies “work” much longer days. They are often not fed, are kept out in the sun for long hours which causes hyper-pigmentation and also makes them irritable so they whine and cry. The malnutrition makes them vulnerable, if not victims to a number of diseases and developmental disorders. Once one woman is finished, she will hand the baby off to another woman who will take the baby and start anew.

I then read that a lot of these children are actually kidnapped by the “beggar mafia” that then starves or maims them or incorporates various other tactics to make them more profitable. Sometimes limbs are bound or stitched to stop the circulation to an extremity, causing the limb to die, grow gangrenous or otherwise permanently disable them. The beggars themselves don’t get any of the spoils of their begging. All the profits go to the mafia.

This is an excerpt from the Times of India:

“For the hundreds of children who beg at busy traffic junctions, it is serious business,” explains Anuradha Sahasrabuddhe of the NGO, Dnyanadevi, which runs Childline. “They know exactly which brands of cars to chase, how to ‘dress up’ to evoke maximum sympathy and how to fix false plasters on the legs to give the impression of being crippled. Even adults, who sometimes accompany them, are ‘suitably armed’ with crutches or small babies,” she stated. They also know the exact spots where certain organisations distribute free meals, and make it a point to be present there.

A Childline survey revealed that beggar children earn an average of Rs 20 (less than 30 Euro cents) per day, half of which is given to their parents. “The parents are therefore not very keen on sending them to school. They find begging more paying and less dangerous than rag-picking,” Sahasrabuddhe said. “We wanted to rescue the children from such a degrading environment. We got the anti-begging squads to pick them up, but their parents promptly paid up the fine and rescued them,” she added.

The worst part is that the phenomenon is not a direct fallout of growing unemployment and poverty. “They are growing up looking at begging as easy and valid means of making money,” the activist said.

I also discovered that poor beggars are often rounded up and put in jail for up to a year, while handicapped beggars are left alone and the mafia goes untouched. When I use the word handicapped, I am not referring to someone in a wheelchair or missing a leg, I am talking about someone crawling through the streets, pulling their bodies with their arms because their legs don’t work, or walking on all fours because their body is so distorted. The only beggars that seem to be completely left alone are the leprosy patients (I changed this from leper due to a bit of education I received and which you can read in the comments), which nobody wants to touch. Leprosy was a complete surprise to me on my first trip to India. It had always been something out of the Bible, something from long ago. I still find it hard to believe it is here, today, in 2007. It is something that once you have seen it, you never forget. I did hear that a cure and vaccination has been discovered and is currently under testing, so hopefully the days of the leper will soon be a thing of the past.

The more I write here, the more I realize I can go on and on as there is an endless supply of information and statistics… While I know there is almost nothing I can do, “almost nothing” leaves a tiny space for a little something, and that little something I have to do, even if it is just writing about it and creating awareness, getting someone to talk about it, someone to realize these are not just pictures in a news article or a magazine these are people, these are children, these are babies.

I will close by borrowing information from the site “Stop Child Poverty”.

This matter was actually investigated by CNN-IBN,a leading news channel in India.People all over the country were shocked and enraged!This matter was to be discussed in the Parliament but no action has been taken,nor this issue discussed in the Parliament till date!Its been a month and a half since this issue came into light. Let me tell you why the Begging Industry is booming :

  • Rates are fixed for where one wants to beg and a fixed percentage is set for authorities so that everyone can get a share of the beggars loot.*
  • Some people (even the skilled ones) are beggars by choice and they say that there is big money in the begging industry.*
  • A beggar in Hanuman Mandir,in New Delhi, says, "Many people who have made houses here just by begging."*
  • Outside Bhairon Mandir in Delhi beggars are even served Scotch whisky by devotees!*
  • On a good day,(like festivals or sacred days) at a location like mandirs (temples), beggars could earn up to Rs 250**
  • Surprisingly the Government is aware of the increasing number of beggars in big cities, and the money involved but does nothing.*
  • Rs 180 crore is what the beggars of Bombay earn in a year - a figure given by the state government itself.*
  • This is the reason why criminal gangs have stepped in especially as the Government has turned a blind eye to this section of society.*
  • Handicapped beggars are left alone by the Anti-Begging Squad in action,while other beggars are being rounded up.*
  • This is because the handicapped beggars are better earners and the beggar mafia ensures that they stay on the street. Local enforcement officials are encouraged to look away.*
  • While beggars are treated as criminals and sentenced for a year to detention centers, the beggar mafia go scot-free.*
  • One beggar says,"Beggars are given one year sentence but those associated with the mafia are not arrested.They pay off government officials and get free."*
  • While the Beggary Prevention Act makes it illegal for people to beg, these are the reasons due to which begging is slowly transforming into a full-fledged industry.

*Source - IBNLive : Law fails to prevent begging industry
**1 USD = Rs.46.61 (Rs. denotes Indian Rupee)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6/2/07 23:43

    Leprosy. I did a lot of work on creating an awareness about the disease and its treatment some years ago. At the beginning let me request you to please not call anybody suffering from the disease, a 'leper". It is the only disease for which the patient has a name. They should be referred to as leprosy patients, plain and simple. Think about this. The moment we call someone a 'leper' we automatically condemn them.

    Leprosy is a virus which is, strangely, found mainly along coastal India. This is the reason why there is a high incidence in the South and along the coast up to Orissa. You will almost never find a leprosy patient up north. Seems to be some sort of a genetic problem.

    Leprosy is completely curable and only 15% of all leprosy cases are infectious. The disease spreads not from touching but from saliva and sneezing. Most of the beggars who come to your car window are burnt out cases but the scare of the disease is so deep that most people would rather give a quick buck just to get rid of them. Or they simply ignore them, especially if their car windows are rolled up. Which makes leprosy patients great carriers for smuggling goods across borders. Catch a customs guy searching a leprosy patient!!

    Leprosy is completely curable and takes only about six months of Multi Drug Therapy (MDT) to do so. Most people do not like to go to the clinics as hospitals have a separate wing for "VD and Leprosy" and going there is like proclaiming the disease to the entire world and seeking ostracism.

    Leprosy is also the only disease which has laws against it. In a few states leprosy patients are not allowed to use any form of public transport while in some you can get an instant divorce if your spouse is diagnosed with the disease.