VYETH Student Magazine

The Menace of Begging in Our Society

Saba Gulzar

B.A. LLB (6th Semester)

Vitasta School of Law & Humanities  

The issue of begging is not as simple as it seems to be. The process needs to be understood very keenly and consciously.

“Begging is to entreat earnestly, implore or supplicate”

Every now and then we find people who are completely living on the mercy of others. Most of them rather prefer to live as sole parasites and the people who top in the hierarchy are the “Beggar”.

Actually what sort of people would we normally expect involved in begging are either the persons who are physically or mentally incapable or the down trodden old people who cannot earn to feed themselves and have no one to look after. But unfortunately in today’s era most of the beggars we encounter are both physically and mentally fit and sound, most of them in their period of youth. Surprisingly they often refuse when offered work. It is not only the youth but the women are also not lacking behind in the race for begging. They too are found in greater number.

Now the question here arises is that … “Is begging a real necessity or an addiction for those who go for it.”

Beggars are the despairs of their lives. The agonies conquer them while they try to conquer agonies. Always in search of a savior, like Aladin’s lamp that can alleviate their woes in a jiffy. They spent the life of a parasite with no zeal to work or spent respectable life in this world.  They never stay silent but always bark up the wrong tree unaware of the fact that a dominant tendency among all of us is to comment on anything and everything without looking at what exactly we are doing.

It is well said by Thomas Alva Edison that, “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Now we must consider the ground factors which give birth to such NUISance of begging.

In the first place, we blame poverty to be a major cause for giving rise to begging menance.

Here we have got some questions to answer- 

  • Is poverty in J&K as serious as the statistics projects?
  • As India debates the Rs. 32 per person day poverty line, what would we say?
  • As new BPL census is under way, using new indicators including race, where would we stand?

The idea of poverty is always relative. India’s poverty debate like elsewhere, will always have to address inconsistencies. Despite tremendous economic development, poverty line in China continues to be a matter of debate. When it comes to J&K, our poverty figures and ground realities are paradoxical. We need to address that paradox head on, even the western country of Britain has seen a 20% increase in the past year alone in the number of people who cannot afford food.

Foreshare which redistributes surplus food from major manufacturers and super markets to social care charities has seen the number of people requesting for food handouts increasing from  20,000 per day to 35,000 per day.

In our state, there are various provisions to improve the living conditions of the poor masses who are left with no alternative other than begging. But what is required is a human conscience to be awakened. Many families that hold BPL cards to get subsidized rations are normally for above BPL and can afford market purchasing.

J&K’s economic survey of 2010-2011, puts our BPL number at 24.21 lakhs people or 21.63% of our total population.

Oxford Poverty and Human development initiatives Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) states that out of 1.22 crore people in J&K in 2007, 54 lakh or 43.8% lived in poverty.

However these figures can be reduced to a great extent. The acknowledgement of the fact that Kashmir’s problem is not abject poverty but poor human development, will be useful.

Kashmir, being a conflict zone, seems to be more prone to problem which ultimately leads one to beg on the streets.

Dr. Bashir Ahmad Dabla in his book “Social cost of militancy”, reveals that social dynamics of militancy and demilitarization has corrupted the entire social Millie and it has developed the prominent features of crime, drug abuse, moral degeneration, mass corruption, social anarchy, and social pathology. These social problems have delegitimized justification of social solidarity, social harmony and social connectivity. 

But the fact that Kashmir’s economic foundations are sound primarily because of its quality natural resources and human skills cannot be ignored. The last 20 years of conflict has not aggravated poverty, it has impeded economic development.

Recently, Supreme Court directed all the states to specify how much additional food grains under PDS (Public Distribution System) are needed to meet the objective that no one should die of starvation or malnutrition.

Preventive measures have been taken under various laws against begging. The law in the state of Karnataka may be studied as an example. The Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary Act 1975 prohibitpersons from resorting to begging and provides for the detention, training and employment of beggars, for the custody, trial and punishment of beggar offenders and for the relief and rehabilitation of such persons. 

The Act provides for arrest & enquiry of beggars in section 11, sending of beggar to the relief centres in section 12, transfer of infirm, disabled and decrepit beggars and persons suffering from any incurable disease to receiving centres in section 13, medical examination and detention of leprosy patients & lunatics under section 14. 

Section 17 of the Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary Act, 1975 lays down that whoever employs any person to beg or abets such employment, shall be punished with imprisonment or fine or both.

Section 25 lays down that every court shall, as far as possible give precedence to any proceeding under this Act over any other proceeding before such court.

Finally, the government may appoint a board of visitors under section 32 of the Act, in local areas to inspect, from time to time, the institutions, and to report their working of these institutions to the government and offer suggestions as they deem fit for their improvement.

Besides this Act, there are other Acts which tend to curb the menace of begging like.

  • The Bombay Beggars Act, 1945 (Bombay Act XXIII of 1947).
  • The Prevention of Beggary Act, 1350 F (Hyderabad Act XX of 1350 Fasli).
  • The Madras Prevention of Begging act, 1945 (Madras act XIII of 1945)
  • The Mysore Prohibition of Beggary Act, 1944 (Mysore Act 33 of 1944).

Apart from the legislations & reforms the need of the hour in order to curb the evil of begging is that mankind should wake up and mend their ways.

The bitter truth has to be faced, we have lost our way- long ago and are now stranded in pitch darkness, unmindful of our predicaments, the darkness is deeping with every passing moment. 

The fundamental reason why we need to revisit our poverty figures is that we need to target our public spending especially those of the centrally sponsored schemes better. MGNREGA, for instance could be restructured to do more meaningful jobs. Indira Awas Yojana could be redesigned. There are hardly any homeless people in our state. Homes built under this scheme are generally used as cowsheds or resting rooms by powerful rural elite.

Nowadays, we rarely find any local domestic helpers as all our manual jobs are done by imported workers from outside the state. Locals are given least preference which really sounds embracing on our part. Steadily with the increased income levels of elite classes, quality of life has changed and what followed was more increased food consumption which later on transformed into lavish consumption and consequent wastage of scores of food resources.

By all counts Begging menace has come to haunt us arguably in a much bigger way then before. Yet we are caught on the wrong foot only debating the strategies that is being followed with seemingly little or no action at all and consequently the fallouts are there to be seen. We need to imbibe the humanitarian spirit so as to once understand their plight. Let us delve into the past and try to find out why our ancestors at least didn’t go caught up in the mess as we are finding ourselves. Darkness will only go away, once we are able to light a candle. Badly caught in a materialistic quest, we tend to overlook the actual purpose of life. i.e sharing sorrows and griefs of others. To determine the cause of begging, actually no rocket science is reuired, we just need to ask ourselves that “Are we just an organic matter having no spiritual side”. What distinguishes a human being from an animal is that the nature has bestowed the human being with a quality to desire a change as well as inspire a change. We only need to act as responsible human beings for the sake of humanity and spirituality as well.

The task is not merely to light a candle but to get transformed into a lightening candle.

{You know that you have many faults, yet you try to find fault with others}                                                               — Ibrahim Bin Adham (RA)