A common sight in India at traffic signals, railway stations and urban markets, is that of a destitute woman, begging, with a child in her arms. At times, out of pity or out of fear, from being cursed by God, or out of irritation, we tend to give them some coins or money and drive them away. In this context, bring out the ethical issues associated with beggary. Indicate the socio-economic reasons behind it. Also, discuss the attitudinal aspects of people towards beggars. What feasible steps can be taken to effectively control this serious problem of our country? (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:

  • There are four sub-parts of the question.
    • First, explain the various forms of begging relating it with poverty.
    • Then discuss the ethical concerns related to begging.
    • Discuss the various attitudinal aspects of people and the source of such attitudes.
    • In the last part of the question discuss the need for a multi-pronged strategy to tackle this issue.

Answer:

India is seen as the world’s next economic superpower, but there is a darker side, begging, which successive governments have not been able to eradicate from the land.

Begging raises various ethical concerns:

  • Existence of widespread begging including physically disables, children, women among other vulnerable groups, raises questions on outcomes as well as commitment of government’s policies to tackle poverty.
  • Begging remains a hugely profitable venture for mafia groups, which in turn work on more anti-social aspects creating and maintaining the existing inequality and crime.
  • Kidnapping and maiming a minor for the purpose of begging is prevalent in India.

Socio-economic reasons behind begging:

  • Beggary is a result of economic exclusion in the run-up to the progress and development. Unplanned urbanization has contributed in a great way to beggary having increased in cities and metros. Causal factors could be under-employment, unemployment or poverty.
  • Begging in India has become a big racket in the country. For many, begging is just like any other profession.
  • The gang leader keeps the larger share. These beggars are so involved in begging that they don’t want to work elsewhere.
  • Physically handicapped are forced to beg due to serious apathy by society as well as government policies.

Attitude of people towards beggars:

  • People with a religious frame of mind give alms to beggar out of fear from God or they consider doing so a religious responsibility. Thus the number of beggars at worship places is the highest.
  • Many consider begging as a scam and refuse to give anything to beggars. Such an attitude stems from the belief that beggars are in fact lazy and turn to begging because it is an easy way to earn money.
  • While some people provide pennies to beggars with physical disability or very old people who are not able to work.
  • Many just want to get rid of them and out of irritation or anger give beggars some money to drive them away.

With the nation aspiring to achieve world standards in every field socio-economic measures are needed to curb the begging problem in India. The solution calls for a comprehensive programme and reorientation of the existing programmes. The eradication of begging problems is closely interlinked with poverty alleviation programs. Beggar children should be provided free education under RTE act and a close monitoring on their education status is required. Government should come down heavily on mafia organizations who are responsible for widespread begging in this country. And most importantly, a philanthropic approach to beggar problems should be complemented with therapeutic and rehabilitative work.

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