Going to markets these days is an ordeal. It has virtually become a nightmare to visit any of the shopping centers in the metropolis. The simple reason for this terrifying experience all boils down to beggars. Professional beggars, to be exact, for the genuine needy and deserving people will never resort to begging. The professional beggars have encroached upon the rights of the deserving.
Beggars seem to have an intrinsic relationship with Ramadan (the month of fasting for Muslims). Although beggars have always abounded on the roads of the metropolis, but as soon as the moon of the holy month of Ramadan is sighted, entire groups of beggars come out on the roads, which disturbs the flow of traffic and creates a nuisance for commuters. Just to exploit the religious sentiments of the people, these beggars travel from one city/province to another so that they are not recognized in their own city.
Visit any market these days and as soon as you have parked your car, beggars of all ages and gender, swamp you. Entire families are seen begging on most major roads, markets, bus stops etc. They beg aggressively and sometimes get on the nerves of the people.
These beggars are in every form: young boys and girls, crippled men, women with a toddler tailing behind her or a baby cradled in her arms, children jumping to wash the car, or just simply begging. If you refuse to give these beggars alms then be prepared to hear a heart-rending story. Interestingly, all seem to have one tale to tell: to pay the school fee of a younger sibling or collecting money in order to marry off their sister, pay the rent, or simply to buy ata (flour).
Some of the older ones with a bundle of hospital prescriptions in their hands will ask for alms on the ground that they are critically ill and must be operated on. One really wonders how they can manage to move about the city if they are so critically ill that they need an operation. What were the hospital authorities doing to let such ill patients to leave the hospital?
Each and every professional beggar starts by invoking the blessings of the Almighty, praying for the success, prosperity and good health of the giver. Then they start spinning their sorrowful tale that contains a plethora of problems. Refuse to oblige them or give them less than their expectations, they become aggressive, indecent and nasty and a rain of curses are showered on you.
Another modus operandi adopted by these professional beggars during the holy month is that of knocking on the gates of every house, asking for zakat. They will persistently ring the bell and knock on the gate, irrespective of the fact that the inmates of the house might be praying, sleeping or preparing iftari, till their demand is satiated.
Needy/deserving people are everywhere in society and helping them is our moral duty. Giving of alms is a noble act. Charity in spirit is an act of worship while in its external form it is the carrying out of social service. However professional beggars spoil the very concept of alms giving, forcing a person who possesses a sense of responsibility and devotion to duty to think twice before giving.
It is really very hard to determine the genuine needy from the professionals. The genuine needy ones do not ask from every one and also want to maintain their respect in society. Even some of the professional beggars are exploited by the mafia who control them.
Serious efforts should be undertaken by the government, NGOs and the philanthropists to curb the menace of beggary from the society as it tarnishes the name of the country. The government should take serious note of those elements that are promoting beggary as a profession. Efforts to control beggary would succeed only when the big fish behind this lucrative business is caught.
At the same time with the help of NGOs and philanthropists, rehabilitation centers should be opened in the city. At these centers, volunteers should be hired who could impart training and basic education to these people, which would improve the quality of their lives.