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Beggars in Times of Pandemic

A few million of people of India(particularly children and elderly) are engaged as beggars die to several reasons. In fact, various reasons are attached to it, but extreme poverty and discrimination as well as negligence are the basic reasons of begging as an occupation. The real truth behind is to survive with a two square of meals. It is nothing a violation of human rights and dignity. It witnesses various societal, economic and other distances in  a stratified society like India. However, the government has hardly any measure to eradicate this problem from our democratic society.

Stereotype mentality, behaviour and to some extent religious faith are the fuel of sustaining of this one of the oldest hatred occupations.Anyway, how are these beggars in the times of the pandemic? Their places of begging(railway platform, running coach, gate of religious institution, and so forth) are the under lockdown. A majority of them are from rural areas.  What about their daily living? Many of them have no permanent shelter/resident, and they have no citizenship documents also. What is about their safety during this crisis? Whether they are considerable human beings, or they have to die considerable dependence on their God or Goddess.

Here some of the case studies of these beggars have been noted about their living conditions at all-

Case 1 : Pramila(65, widow) lives alone. Her place of begging is a railway platform of Sealdah South division and at the gate of a temple nearby the railway station. She is from a rural area of South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal about 60 km away from Kolkata. There she has s small cottage. Her only daughter is married. She uses to go there once in a month. During the  last two months (during the national lockdown) she was there. Her small cottage was washed out due to the Amphan cyclone. The local administration had taken photographs of it. But she did not get any compensation. Further, during these dual crises (pandemic and cyclone) she did not get any type of help from the local administration, although she has ration card and Aadhar. No one came forward to assist her. Therefore, she returned to her begging place. But here she is trouble because number of daily commuters are very little. And no one is ready to help. In her own words, ‘when I am appealing for a rupee, people are turning their heads. No one is giving a small part of a bread have no food for last two days. No more I will survive.’

Case 2 : Jyotshna (26) is a blind lady. She has a high school education, and she has a handicapped certificate. She married to daily labour of her community. But she is deserted by her husband. Now she lives with her two kids. She tried for a job to survive. On the other hand, she has no parental support because they are also in extreme poverty. Of course, they have given a shelter to her with kids in a slum of Kolkata. Due to lack of any alternative, she enters into begging occupation. Whole day either in a railway station or local market, she uses to beg with her sweet songs. In normal days, she had a good earning by which she used to maintain herself and her kids. But during this pandemic crisis, she stands in the same places. But her daily earning is very low and it is not enough to maintain her family. She shared, ‘I have all documents. But I am not getting enough support from the government. Even Pratibandhi Sanstha did not provide any assistance. Our survival is a challenging issue’. When she was asked, she had no fear of infection, she replied, ‘we have to die with hungry, then what would be done by this virus? All is our fate.’

The overall of situation reminds the problems of the poor and neglected citizen of the country. Is government meant a poorer politics? Who will look after these neglected sections. When our democratic government would make necessary arrangement for the protection of the vulnerable sections and their right to survive with dignity and justice.

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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Written by Harasankar

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