Begging Menace in Kashmir? 

Kashmir has seen a rise in the number of able people turn to begging and the industry has gone beyond being credible or aid worthy 

By Malik Javid 

LOCKDOWN may have put a break on common man’s movement, but there seems to be no break on the movement of beggars looking for alms in our localities. What I have concluded after acutely observing class of population, who have turned this begging into a livelihood profession from past few years is that, there is no check on the credibility of these people at any level — government or community level.

If a person is healthy and hale what is prompting them to choose this ostracized profession needs to be questioned. We can’t go on ignoring this elephant in the room. In fact, our silence has led to legitimization of this begging as a profession. Even today amid these tough times, these people seem to be breaching every barricade set by authorities to invade the privacy of our homes only to put their own and others’ lives at risk.

From past decade, our valley has seen an exponential rise in the menace of begging. I wouldn’t be exaggerating in calling Kashmir a “beggar’s paradise”. One might not to be certain here about earning livelihood by working as a daily wager in unorganised sector but one is sure to get pocket full of money at the end of day, courtesy of begging in markets, mosques, hospitals, highways and offices. Such is the sad state of our valley.

Political uncertainty and conflict ruling the valley from last three decades has not decreased the inflow of panhandlers across the tunnel irrespective of gender and age from hinterlands of other parts of country to our valley. Unfortunately, there seems to be no check on the movement of these mendicants even in the times of a pandemic.

Two years back, J&K government had banned begging at public and religious places in Srinagar but that order has remained confined to just paper and with authorities have lowered their guard against beggars with time. Therefore, things have remained unchanged on ground.

Now what this huge inflow of beggars has done is that our own population has succumbed to this alternate route of earning livelihood too now. They seem to have  taken cue from these outsiders which has inturn given birth to a new breed of home-grown beggars, who are healthy and hale. Yet they are opting for this much disliked way of earning.

According to our religion, begging was prescribed for those people who had lost their organs of working by birth or accidently, thus rendering themselves helpless at the mercy of others to earn their living. With time, begging has been turned into a money minting profession with people who could have easily earned their living by using their own hands instead of preferring begging over it. As the time passes, these people get addicted to it to a level of no return. What prompts them to take this profession to earn their bread and butter is the assured hefty amount at end of the day without any toiling.

A few days back, I was preparing to take my routine sleep on our veranda after midday prayers when I saw a gentle voice of a young boy wearing a blue skull cap and matching shalwar kameez approach me. With the first glance itself, I could conclude from his face that he would have been close to twelve years. He was holding a bundle of few old notes in the close fist of his right hand and a few laminated documents of some orphanage institution under his left armpit. His pockets on either side of shalwar kameez had visibly bulged out due to weigh of coins. Before I could to check his credentials, he started his memorised sermon when I intercepted him in the middle to check his credibility. When I enquired from him as to who gave him the authority to collect money in the name of the orphanage, he became silent. I could see the lines of discomfort growing on his face with his colour fading to pale. When I asked him for the contact number of the head of institution he was claiming to represent, he sensed trouble and pulled away his documents from my hand and ran away — but not without passing a comment at me, Agar hass deon chi thaa dee,Eoutha chena police enquiry asee Karan (if you want to give me something then give, the amount of enquiry you are doing even the police doesn’t do it with us).

As he left, I began to ponder over his action.

Our society needs to cure the menace of begging through actively arranging destitute management. Institutions that cater to the needy here must also come up with ways to be self sustaining and not rely on donations entirely. For instance, revered and respected Islamic scholar Maulana Tariq Jameel who recently started his clothing MTJ brand to run his Islamic institution. In an interview he was quoted as saying, “I don’t want spread hands before people to run my institutions, I want them to be self-sustaining by running them on money earned through this clothing MTJ brand”

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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