The Bible has told us that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. In fact, Jesus said that one day He will say to those who helped those in need, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’ (Matthew 25:34-36).
It is hard to go to a place like India and see a woman on the streets, begging with a child in tow and not do something about it. She is dressed shabbily, perhaps bare feet, her face dirty and in her arms is a sleeping infant or a toddler with a dirty face, runny nose and big eyes looking at you as his mother holds out a thin, dirty hand for money. Your heart melts and you reach into your handbag or your money belt to take out some money to give her. It’s impossible for you not to help this mother and her child. You give her the money and she takes it and goes way. Your heart feels light. You have done a great thing.
It’s a common sight in India to see a dirty looking woman carrying a child in her arms. If you are driving, you see them at the traffic light and when you stop, they come to your car and bang on the window. Sometimes it’s a little boy with a runny nose. You will find them in the railway stations, metro stations, tourist attractions, in temples and in areas where there are crowds. People who see them are moved to give them money. Sometimes they shoo them away.
It is perfectly normal for people to beg in a country where there is so much poverty. In fact, begging has become one of the most serious social issues in India in spite of rapid economic growth. This has led to the growth of beggars in the country. Most of them come from Bangladesh and some are from India. The problem is that not all of the beggars are legitimate. The few who are real are those who are handicapped because they are unable to work, they are old or blind or they need money for basic needs. Many live far below the poverty line and have been forced to beg in order to survive.
There are entire families who are begging on the streets and in temples because their income is not enough. The children are unable to go to school. Poverty is very real in India and begging is the only way the people can earn their livelihood. Unfortunately, begging has become a big scam in India. Travel India Smart warns people who plan to visit India that if they are approached by a women carrying a baby and begging for money not to give her any money. These women make the babies look pathetic to appeal to the public’s sympathy.
In an article, Travel India Smart says that when one woman takes a rest, she hands the baby over to other women who continue to walk the streets in the hot sun, carrying the baby. Babies are rented out from beggar to beggar. As a mother, I can’t imagine how a mother could allow her baby to be used like this. Maps of India says that sometimes the babies are drugged for the entire day so that they look sick and can be easily carried from one area to another by the young women beggars.
These beggars want money. One beggar said that the baby she was carrying had just been fed and she would prefer money. In Mumbai, a child or a woman beggar approaches a visitor, wanting some powdered milk to feed a baby. The woman would take the visitor to a nearby stall or shop which happens to sell tins or boxes of the milk. The milk is pricey and if the tourist hands over the money for it, the shopkeeper and the beggar split the proceeds between them. The beggars rent babies from their mothers to make them look credible and they carry these sedated babies who are draped limply in their arms and claim that they don’t have any money to feed them.
When confronted by a woman beggar and a child, what do we do? In an article written in Go India, Sharell Cook, suggests that it is best to ignore the beggars. It may sound harsh but by not giving them what they want, you are taking the necessary step toward abolishing beggary. It is something that has become a menace to society. It is exploiting the compassion of those who want to help those in need. It is making it difficult for the real beggars. Babies and children are being exploited. And gangs are profitting from begging. Some beggars have gone as far as deliberately maiming and disfiguring themselves just to get more money.
Something has to be done to stop this epidemic. One suggestion is that charitable organizations use their clout with governments to ban beggars from using babies. Another suggestion is that the Indian government continues with its measures to alleviate poverty. For our part, people can help to stop this problem by not giving money to these beggars. Instead, they are encouraged to visit a temple and give alms to the beggars there.
Tips for giving to Beggars are:
- If you really want to give to beggars, give only 10-20 rupees at a time and give them when leaving a place not when you arrive or you will be mobbed.
• Try to give to those who perform a service, such as small children who dance or sing
• Give to those who are elderly or crippled.
God wants us to show compassion to those who are in need but He doesn’t expect us to help those who would take advantage of our charity and exploit others for their greedy gains.
Avoid giving to women with babies because the babies are usually not theirs. The best thing you can do is to not give anything to the beggars. If everyone were to stop giving, then these gangs and all those who are profitting from begging will be put out of business. They will have no choice to work and earn an honest living. And visitors can enjoy a hassle free vacation.
Sources: Map of India; Travel India Smart; Go India