(A report about beggars including child beggars that I got published in Hindustan Times on Nov.16, 2000. In these past ten years since the publication of this report nothing much has changed. The Child beggars are still present in almost whole Allahabad.)
The beggars are a common sight on the roads of Allahabad. You can locate them almost in any part of the city. Be it railway station,theater halls,hospital, posh residential colonies or busy market you can always find one. As you alight from the train at Allahabad station, the beggars start pestering you. And you are left with no other option but to put a penny on their hand. These beggars cannot be fixed into one fix age group but generally they are between 5 to 45 years. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, when devotees throng in huge number at the Hanuman Temple in Civil Lines,beggars also gather there. It creates a lot of embarrassment for the devotees as the beggars block their way when they want to avoid them.
Here at this temple small children ,who are bare-bodied, get the job done for their families as it is for them to generate sympathy.Their innocent faces melt even the most stony hearts.The child beggars, while facing the odds of the weather, undergo every kind of exploitation. They are often harassed by the police on suspect of being involved in drug pedaling whereas girls are often sexually exploited.
During Kumbh Mela, if one happens to visit Sangam, one notices sea of beggars !! They come here with full preparations since they know that Mela (fair) stretches for more than a month. They stay here for months and slowly leave as the Mela (fair) ends. Sources say that these beggars, who at first sight appear to be victim of vicissitudes of life,in fact, have their own bank accounts. Yet, there are many among them who really need attention and care. Many are handicapped while a few suffer from some incurable diseases which cripple their body movement.
Thus, it becomes a hard task for them to manage two square meals. To meet unnatural death is their fate. Apart from these type of beggars, who somehow manage to survive, there is another class of mentally deranged beggars. In Allahabad you can find them sitting at roadside.
Till now, no social organisation of the city has shown interest in their cause. At the same time, there exists no specific guidelines for rehabilitation of beggars. Unlike in other countries, where begging is an offence and governments pay monthly allowances to put them off the road, in India, it’s still a distant dream.