As our country makes its way to becoming a superpower, poverty and begging in India continue to be some of the most grappling issues. According to an estimate, there are almost half a million people below poverty line in India. While the government is not able to provide the basic necessities like food and shelter to its people, a number of unprivileged people turn to beg. The majority of these beggars are women and young children.

Where do they come from?

Recently, a video of a man being confronted by a group of girls for kissing a young begging girl went viral. The man slipped the begging child a ten-rupee note in exchange for the forced kiss, something the kid was clearly too young to understand. As the man was caught and the police were called, a crowd of people gathered and started recording videos. Naturally, the frightened girl broke into tears as strangers comforted her. 

A lot of people wonder why young children have to roam the streets begging in India for money and food. Where do they come from? Men usually migrate to the cities to overcome financial constraints. However, it is not the same for women. Their migration is often impacted by adverse circumstances that are out of their control. Broken homes, domestic violence, husband’s abandonment or second marriage, or ailment are some of the reasons that can make a woman travel to the unfamiliar streets of big cities. While many of these women get work as domestic help or daily-wage laborers, still some of them resort to begging. 

Begging in India

The Oscar-winning movie, Slumdog Millionaire showed the dark side of child trafficking in India. The movie got a lot of flak for showing India in poor light but, the events shown in the movie are not entirely made up. According to Indian National Human Rights Commission, about 40,000 children are kidnapped each year; whereabouts of around 10,000 of such children remain unknown. 

Although the government and Delhi police deny the involvement of any begging mafia, one cannot deny that child trafficking in India is somewhat organized in parts of the country. You might have noticed how there is an increased number of beggars at a tourist attraction. The beggars are aware that foreigners are not used to the confrontational tone and will give in at some point if followed around. 

Begging in India
Begging in India

On traffic signals, child beggars are seen carrying books they cannot read, knocking on windows and asking passengers to buy them. Some of them sell toys, while others sell coconuts, peanuts, and other snacks. These items are provided to the children by someone and they have to give parts of the sale as commission to that same person.  In many cases, women or young girls are seen carrying babies that appear to be sleeping. The infants are often hired on a daily basis as more people would give money upon seeing the helpless infant. These babies are often drugged up, which is why they are always fast asleep. 

It is wrong to categorize every beggar as being part of a gang. There are way too many people out there who beg due to unfortunate circumstances. Although there is no federal law for begging in India, it does carry a penalty of 3 to 10 years in beggar homes under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959.  

If you want to be a part of the change and play a role in rehabilitating beggars, you could volunteer or donate to foundations like the Youngistaan Foundation and many others. They run programs like Women of Courage that aims to build safe space and empower girls in schools, slums, and orphanage. However, a handful of organizations cannot take on such a big issue. Until the government comes up with effective measures to provide education, shelter, and jobs to these beggars, the problem of begging in India is going to persist.