Nagpur: The scenario at major squares in the rapidly growing and ‘developed’ City of Nagpur or Orange City or Second Capital of a progressive State of Maharashtra leaves one astonished and sick, too. The moment you stop at traffic signals at any of the squares in the city, whether riding motorcycles or driving cars or travelling in autos, you are mobbed by ‘dirty looking’ women with children in their arms or little boys and girls in rags and running noses tapping your vehicles or a handicapped asking for alms. The begging spree begins with sunrise and ‘never’ stops at any hour of bright sunshine and at brightly illuminated squares. The only difference is that the scenario is not bright but bleak. And remember, Nagpur is soon to acquire status of a ‘Smart City.’ Nagpur could not afford to boast a ‘Smart City’ with ‘dirty pictures’ dotting wide and sprawling squares and at other vital places forget other ills.
Of course, the begging phenomenon is not new in any way. The menace was being witnessed in the past, too. However, what is new and more menacing is the strength. The number has increased in disturbing magnitude. The begging by dubious women with infants in arms and half-naked kids has tossed up a pertinent question: What the male and grown up members of the begging lot do to earn livelihood? Could the spurt in various crimes being witnessed in recent times linked? Cases of house-breaking, road robberies, thefts in market as well as residential areas etc are climbing in the crime chart. One more vital question crops up: What will the begging kids do as grown up boys or girls? Habit of earning easy money will die hard. And this habit would force them to find other ways for easy money. Crime is one of them.
The begging by ‘dirty’ looking kids and women-with-infants has assumed a common sight at busy squares. The red signal at any of the directions is, in fact, green signal for the begging lot. The half bare and half clothed kids hop from one spot to another in quick succession and pester the vehicle owners for alms of whatever nature (denomination). A coin of a rupee brings a broad smile on the face of the ‘beggar’ but the tiny as well as filthy hands leave many riders, drivers, travelers and others red faced or emotionless or at times irritated and shooing them away.
The arms spreaders certainly appear nomads wandering from one area to another, one city to another and one state to another state telling the terrible tale of poverty and other ills. The dazzlingly illuminated streets and other parts of the Nagpur City depict the darker side in many ways as well.
The ‘Smart City’ planners could ponder over this aspect, too. The ‘dirty picture’ threatens to send a wrong signal to thousands of visitors to this historic city. In recent times, one will find many of these people at railway stations, tourist spots, in temples and in many areas where there is a regular crowd.
The stallion jump in economic growth notwithstanding, the ground reality is that India is a poverty-infested nation and the reason for hordes and hordes of alms seekers at all possible places. Major squares are one of them. For the sake of saner considerations, one can understand a few beggars who beg because they are handicapped, helpless to work or are aged or blind and thus hitting the streets for livelihood. But involvement of entire family in this ‘lucrative business’ is just beyond imagination. Such family or families go on increase in number with the prospects of marriages and berth of new members. The new born comes in the ‘business’ without wasting time and sits in the arms of begging mother staring the donors in their faces.
The Right To Education, Mid-Day Meal Scheme in schools and other schemes worth the name, it seems, have failed to ‘inspire’ the begging gangs. It is being observed that the children of such families do not go to school but only beg for pocketing easy money. Poverty could be one of the reasons for the lot to spread their arms but it could not be generalized. Poverty affects hundreds and hundreds of other vulnerable families but begging is not the only source of income.
Poverty in the country can be described in reams and reams bit it would be one way tale. Poverty is real but not begging. It has assumed the shape of a racket operated by gangs. These gangs, shockingly, earn moolah, which a middle class family even could not dream of.
Not that measures have not been taken at various levels to eradicate the scourge but the ‘fashion’ continues. The only possible deterrent could be people to shed their religious frame of mind. It could be said that remain hungry but do not start begging.