Of Beggars And Pseudo-Beggars

The law enforcers are also supporting this menace by claiming a share of the day’s earnings in order to allow the beggars to keep going

Of Beggars And Pseudo-Beggars

On my way to school every morning, as soon as I exit my house, the first individual I see every day is the beggar firmly ensconced in the bone-chilling cold on the pavement. He is a permanent fixture and I can’t help but grudgingly admire his commitment and dedication to his “profession” (for want of a better word!). Passersby or his regular clients, on their way to work, taking pity on him, hand out alms, requesting him to pray for them and hoping to invoke God’s blessings by helping the poor and needy, or so they like to believe. 

As we proceed a little further, we see even more beggars at the traffic lights; women in abayas, carrying children, holding a page with their hard luck story printed on it and even some who are wheeling invalids (or so we assume) on wheel chairs, expertly weaving their way through traffic to approach as many cars as they can in the couple of minutes before the light turns green. They appear to be immune to the weather as they can be seen all around the year regularly, whether it is the sweltering heat of June or the freezing cold of January. Work is work, after all!

That brings us to the key point that this is “work” for them. Even though I strongly condemn what they’re doing, the tenacity and fortitude makes you wonder that if they deployed and utilised their skills more productively, they would be a huge resource for the nation. It is both sad and depressing that beggary has assumed the status of a profession for a certain section of society and instead of denouncing it, the individuals on the road encourage the practice by handing out alms and gifts in the form of small change.

All these beggars are making much more in a day than most of us do by slogging it out from 9-5 in our respective professions and of course, the cherry on top is that it is tax-free! Although our religion strictly forbids and strongly condemns beggary, there is a certain segment of society harbouring the firm belief that it wards off bad luck and is the best and easiest way to seek divine blessings and a place in Heaven. This mindset is so thoroughly entrenched that it is next to impossible convince drivers handing out alms to these beggars to instead support charitable organisations, devoted to bringing about a visible change in society or financially support relatives or neighbours who are struggling to make two ends meet in this deadly inflation.

The biggest victim of this inflation is the middle class which is shrinking day by day. As inflation and taxes cripple the purchasing power of the consumer, the compulsion to maintain their dignity and self-respect prevents them from asking for financial assistance. However, education, health and food which were deemed necessities, now fall under the category of luxuries, and are beyond the reach of the average individual. Unfortunately, the financial inequality in this country combined with the stagflation is eroding the purchasing power of the average consumer and the black money floating in society is wreaking havoc with the economy.

The law enforcers are also supporting this menace by claiming a share of the day’s earnings in order to allow the beggars to keep going. If stringent measures are taken and these beggars are removed from the roads by the custodians of law and order, this mafia will be dealt a severe blow. In addition, these beggars should be taxed just like everybody else is and all the undocumented streams of income should be documented and taxed. If begging was not a lucrative profession and actively encouraged by both those on the road and the police, it would not be allowed to flourish and thrive in the way it is doing at the moment. For both stakeholders (the drivers and the police) it is a win-win situation and a cheap way of ensuring a place in Heaven. 

The number of beggars seems to be on the rise day by day and I notice a certain aggression and hostility in their attitude. Quite a few trans genders are also seen and they appear to be much more brash, brassy and brazen than the others. Hailing from a marginalised section of society still struggling to establish their identity, life for them is much harder and much more challenging and generally, those who wish to seek employment rather than beg are repulsed and rebuffed, leaving them with very little choice. 

In Ramzan, the number of beggars grows tenfold as they descend on big cities like a plague of locusts to make hay while the sun shines. Drivers on the roads hand out alms right, left and centre, oblivious to the fact that if these resources were deployed to financially assist less privileged relatives or deserving neighbours, life would be easier for them in this sacred and holy month, meant to be devoted to God and his people.  

Giving taxes is a societal obligation while zakat is a religious compulsion. Please spend your money wisely and ensure that those around you are comfortable and are able to afford basic necessities of life. Most of us are tightening our belts as prices skyrocket and taxes hit the roof but unfortunately, there are many who are immune to the rapidly escalating prices as they have access to fraudulent and illicit sources of income. Islam places a religious compulsion and deems it a priority to help those closely or distantly related to us and ensure that no one within our neighbourhood goes to bed hungry. 

Amongst all this, there is a sizeable majority who genuinely needs our financial assistance to make two ends meet but cannot venture out on the streets at the expense of their dignity and self-respect. Please be vigilant while handing out alms to those who appear to be less fortunate and do not encourage those who treat it as a profession and form an alternate economy which drains the country’s resources and instead of curbing this menace, serves to promulgate it.

The writer is an educationist and can be reached at gaiteeara@hotmail.com. She blogs at http://sanukeycom.wordpress.com