The culture of begging

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THE art of panhandling has been refined and redefined, and now it is neither homeless people nor the traditional beggars — destitute, ill-clad people with hands stretched out — that the average citizen or visitor has to contend with, but strong men and women, many of whom are young and healthy.

There are legends of people who got rich merely by begging and living off others, while they squirrel away their loot then invest in profit-making initiatives, although they continue to beg, occasionally changing locations when their tricks are discovered or when someone who knows them reveals their reality.

Then there are those who loiter around, cadging cigarettes and drinks from colleagues, and even strangers, as they indulge a most disgusting habit.

Japheth J Omojuwa, an associate of AfricanLiberty.org, wrote: “If you frown at a man who has decided to live his life begging, what would you say or do about a people whose lives are collectively lived as a race of beggars? If you think it is impossible for that to be possible, then you have not met Africa. (See more @: http://www.africanliberty.org/content/beggar%E2%80%99s-bowl-how-africans-become-beggars#sthash.6rvMNkbe.dpuf.

Despite India’s rapid economic growth in recent years, poverty and begging are still amongst its biggest issues. While the poverty is real, begging is quite often carried out in organized gangs.

For the privilege of begging in a certain territory, each beggar must hand over their takings to the gang’s ring leader, who keeps a significant share of it.

Quite a bit of welfare work in India has been directed at reducing begging, with varying degrees of success. The most common problem is that beggars are so used to begging that they actually prefer not to work. Many of them also make more money from begging that what they would if they did work.

In Mumbai in particular, visitors are often approached by a child or woman wanting some powdered milk to feed a baby. They will assist you to a nearby stall or shop that conveniently happens to sell tins or boxes of such “milk”. However, the milk will be expensively priced (often around 200 rupees) and if you hand over the money for it, the shopkeeper and the beggar will simply split the proceeds between them. Beggars also rent babies from their mothers each day, to give their begging more credibility.

In most countries, begging is most prevalent anywhere there are tourists. Another common problem is that if you give to one beggar, such a gesture will quickly attract others. The beggars can be very deceptive, even the children, most of whom are taught by adults the art of cajolery from infancy. If you want to give to beggars, only give when you’re leaving a place, not arriving, to prevent being mobbed. Try to give to those who perform a service, such as small children who often dance or sing, or those that are elderly or crippled. Avoid giving to women with babies, because the babies usually aren’t theirs. They hire them on a daily basis, and drug them to make them sleepy and docile.

Most governments have some provision for their destitute citizens; but many persons prefer not to work, because begging has become a profession all its own, and it’s proving very lucrative. This has given rise to an abominably inhuman practice – crippling children to make them authentic beggars; and the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” has replicated a real scenario in which children are deliberately blinded to make them beggars. In some instances, children are laid in rows while a motorbike is ridden over their arms or legs to make a gang of cripples.

Cruel as it may seem, if persons give alms to these crippled children, it would only encourage more such inhuman practices by the beasts in human form. Japheth J Omojuwa concluded: “A beggar, no matter how full his bowl is, can never claim freedom until he makes his wealth through productive means.” To this can be added that although there is occasional justifiable need of some people to seek help, many times persons refuse to learn to fish, and prefer instead to acquire the fish without effort.