Tanmoy Chakraborty | May 1, 2015
Superstars, celebrities, sportsmen, politician, as usual, are the people of moments whose photographs appear across the digital and print media. Their activities become a national movement and this time their focus is for a different reason – Yes it’s the Swachh Bharat Mission and the broom seems to be alright for the perfect photo frame. Let’s take a different turn for the same mission.
I tend to look what exactly Swachh Bharat Mission should be? Is it just to keep environment clean and have decent sanitation facilities or can we think something beyond it. Poverty and corruption may also be added to the list. But what is more eyesore in the initial stage of this cleanliness campaign is begging – something which we all should be concerned.
As the old adage says ‘There are no beggars whose ancestors were not kings and there are no kings whose ancestors were not beggars’. The question is that should we continue with this adage in this 21st century too? Well, may be ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or may be both. ‘Yes’ because human being does not have the power to change the law of nature and ‘no’ because in the 21st century, after achieving so much for the human race, can’t we think of eradicating begging! Well, we can’t make everybody the king but ‘yes’ we can definitely work together for a poverty free society where people do not need to beg.
Launching the cleanliness campaign on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2014, prime minister Narendra Modi exhorted people to fulfil the dream of the father of the nation. The prime minister urged the citizen to devote at least 100 hours every year, i.e. two hours every day, towards cleanliness. The response was also overwhelming. People from all corners of the country responded to PM’s call and came forward to clean at least a corner of their locality.
This is indeed a noble act. But the scenario is much vast and wide. What about those destitute or helpless citizens whom we encounter daily outside metro station, bus stands, streets, outside temples and other places? Giving them a good life does not also mean Swachh Bharat? Is it not painful when we see children, old age people beg for their livelihood?
Before and Now
According to reports, there are around 60,000 beggars in Delhi, over 3,00,000 in Mumbai, nearly 75,000 in Kolkata and around 56,000 in Bangalore. In Hyderabad with population of around 8million, one in every 354 people is engaged in begging.
Mumbai is home to majority of beggars. Almost every survey profiles beggars as a largely contented lot unwilling to take up honest labour. Nearly 26% of the beggars who were surveyed claimed they were happy. Around 81% claimed that they do not face any problem during begging and only 15% mentioned humiliation from public and police. A survey by the Social Development Centre of Mumbai in 2004 revealed similar attitude. The majority of beggars see it as a profitable and viable profession.
What is more surprising is that the number of people engaged in begging is on the rise. Although it’s a paradox that how beggary could increase with economic growth but the reason is well known. Begging, now-a-days, has become an occupation. Even physically perfect people are begging. It’s a short cut way to earn money. Be it traffic signals, metro stations, outside hospitals and malls and other crowded places, begging is seen everywhere and is growing. These people also become aggressive at times if you don’t give them a decent amount – a clatter noise on the bowl is being frowned into as not acceptable alms!
As we are talking about smart cities and as the cabinet nods the 100 smart cities project, a deeper introspection into liveability index is much required.
The Liveability Index is a methodical analysis that evaluates the degree of liveability that cities offer. The cities selected are ranked annually on the important pillars of demographics, education, health and medical standards, safety, housing options, socio-cultural and political environment, economic environment and natural-built/planned environment and their 20 constituent sub-pillars. The Liveability Index identifies the areas where progress is being made and brings forth the areas where we need to be vigilant and allocate resources to achieve balanced development. The mission of the index is to measure significant drivers of the health and wealth of the community beyond the monetary value. We must learn that a healthy society should not have such huge number of beggars; it imbalances the socio-economic statement. Begging also leads to trafficking.
According to mythology, begging was considered to be very pious and an activity related to renunciation. It is believed that lord Parvati vanished once leading to drought and famine after which she appeared to serve food, lord Shiva even begged to her for food.
Ancient sages and seers too begged for their livelihood. Mendicancy was considered a part of austerity. It was only allowed with certain conditions and in certain phase of life and giving alms was considered athe highest degree of human gesture.
Now with the growing sense of urbanization and short cut to earn money, the first thing as a citizen, we have to do is stop philanthropy to beggars. A crusade against this plague is necessary. Administration too should not allow beggars to sit outside the prime locations. A detailed socio-political analysis is required and government must support it.
Thirdly child beggars who perform acrobatics on streets to earn their livelihood must be considered as an asset to the nation. Government and private players may come forward to refine their skills by enrolling them in sports for free. I see this skill as an enrichment to our low number of medal tally in any sporting events.
In all, India is a large country having vast number of human resource, people with different religions, having different political views and social standings. This coupled with high regional unequal distribution of wealth and resources, people suffer more from others. But a gradual transformation is possible and to some extent it’s already happening. Together with good will and decisive governmental stand we can delve deeper into the Swachh Bharat Mission and say ‘We don’t have beggars in India’.
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