Begging in India is a fashion, a compulsion, a profession, a privilege and a recreation. The number of beggars in India is much larger than in other countries. Our heads hang down in shame when we read description of this institution given by foreigners in a hateful manner. To the Westerners, India is a land of the mendicants and snake-charmers. Beggars are found in villages and towns, on roads, crossings and footpaths. But their favorite haunts are bathing Ghats, temples, religious or festival fairs, railway stations, trains and bus-stands.
It is a big nuisance to be confronted by street beggars at all odd places. Like the God Almighty they seem to be omnipresent. You are waiting for a bus at the bus-stand or walking down a road with your friend, they appear from nowhere and start an endless volley of entreaties and blessings. They follow you close at your heels and keep pestering you till you give them some coins out of a sense of sheer disgust and helplessness.
There are various types of beggars in India. The religious; beggars cluster round pilgrim centres and attract public attention by their wonderful feats. There are crippled and disabled beggars who remain lying on road-sides or at railway or river bridges arousing sympathy of the passers-by, making all kinds of pitiful gesture!; There are beggars who are quite stout and able-bodied. Begging for them is not a necessity but a profession. They are idlers and rascals who are unwilling to earn their bread by hard work. They often operate in gangs and their leaders hold a bank balance that would be credit to an important business magnate. They are disguised as physically disabled or handicapped. They use as tools young women with new born babies or young children. Whenever they find an opportunity, they commit thefts and crimes, including kidnapping of children. At some places we come across modernized beggars dressed in suits. Such beggars lead a luxurious life in places of retirement. There are travelling beggars who are particularly seen in trains. The collect alms for orphanages, cow-shelters and widow-shelters, which exist only in their minds. Foreigners are their most privileged victims.
Begging in India has developed into an art and a full-fledged profession. The practice of begging is the result of the poverty of the country and the deep-seated religious sentiments and superstitions of our country men. Unemployment, illiteracy, ignorance and ever-increasing population are other causes of begging. It cannot be denied that the distribution of wealth is not fair and the gulf between the rich and the poor is very wide. The rich and the well to-do accept extreme poverty and begging as a necessary feature of society. Religion seems to teach them that charity is the surest passport to heaven. Beggars, in themselves are problems and they create other social problems by kidnapping women and children; Sometimes, we begin to doubt the integrity of spiritually and morally high persons and ill treat them because pink clothes have become the common dress of beggars in India.
Charity, in our country, enjoys religious sanctity. But it is conveniently forgotten that misplaced charity is good neither for the one who shows it nor for one to whom it is shown. It encourages idleness and in activity. It produces parasites and wastes a sizeable amount of human power.
Laws should be legislated for abolishing begging and offenders should be severely dealt with. The government should be establish work-houses where able-bodied beggars should be kept and compelled to work. The people, in general, should be made conscious of the fact that beggars are the ‘greatest enemies of the country and there should be country wide agitations against beggars. The crippled and disabled beggars should be maintained by the State, The disabled and diseased beggars and orphaned children and destitute women deserve particular attention from the State. There should be asylums and training centres for such people. Here they should first be treated for their ailments and then trained in different kinds of handicrafts and cottage industries. The success of some of the schools for the blind, the deaf and the dumb shows the true solution of the problem. In place of individual charity, funds and donation should be raised on a large and organized scale for the relief of these unfortunate people.
Indeed, beggary if so intricately women into our way of life that, no matter how corrupt and scheming it gets, it shall continue to claim attention. If not from the educated, from the illiterate and the superstitious. Tragedy stares at us round every corner. Begging is one of the worst social evils that denegrade India in the eyes of the world. The earlier it is eradicated, the better it would be in the interest of our nation.