How to deal with the beggars

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#16 Jan 29th, 2004, 21:52
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#16
Vasko

I'll go with your rant there! Personally l never know quite what to do when l'm approached because the fact is when l came out of Baristas in Jaipur having spent over 200 rupees and walk across the street l can hardly begrudge handing over 10 or 20 rupees to some street kids cause if l walk straight past l feel awful BUT am l really helping them , encouraging beggars or just helping to ease my guilt? I sometimes give, only if there aren't too many others about but l guess the best way to help would be to give to local charities because you could be doing more harm than good by giving to the beggars. THe fact is l have noticed at least in one instance when l was approached by a really cute little girl and l gave her some cash , 20 rupees, she goes off l then see some guy screaming and shouting for her to go back and not leave me until she gets more cash, l can understand hindi, it was quite obvious what was happening, and that has made me think twice b4 giving nething
#17 Jan 29th, 2004, 22:14
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#17
Funkenstien, try www.foodrelief.org or www.cry.org

They do very good work and i've been very impressed with their ethics!
#18 Jan 29th, 2004, 22:16
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One easy solution to this problem is to give beggars, especially children, a piece of fruit. They can eat it right there, no handing it over to pimp or parents. And it is a genuine act of charity. If the child is hungry, he'll be delighted to receive it.

I saw the virtue of this many years ago in a cab in Mumbai--kids begging at the windows. My Sikh driver had a bag of pears up next to him and asked me if I wanted one while a boy and his infant brother were standing at my window. I was little confused at first, but I figured it out. I handed the boy a pear--his eyes flashed, he plunged his teeth into it, and ran off.
#19 Jan 29th, 2004, 23:52
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#19
Personally we never give unless the person is obviously disabled.

In the U.S. it is "common knowledge" that Indian kids are crippled deliberately by their parents for the purpose of begging. How big of a problem is this for real? It seems like giving to disabled kids out on the street would contribute to this problem (if it is indeed a problem).

I don't buy the behaviorist line of thinking and it's basic argument that rewarding any and all begging action will only positively reinforce that action and thus uphold - or even worse - contribute to the growth of the "begging scene". It's more a matter of minimized life options on the beggars part, a sort of shrinking of the world of individual possibilities.

I suspect that being a beggar is a pretty miserable position to be in: you have to put aside your dignity and pride and be a downright pest.


I think you're looking at this through cultural blinders. If you grow up without a "work ethic" or this kind of attitude, why would a beggar feel that way? If compensation were similar what would you rather do, stand around cajoling/threatening people for money or peddling them around on bicycle rickshaws in the 44 degree sun? Personally, I would take more pride in getting 100 Rs out of a stupid tourist then by peddling 2km for 50rs.
#20 Jan 30th, 2004, 01:55
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#20

Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally posted by carlos
Funkenstien, try www.foodrelief.org or www.cry.org

They do very good work and i've been very impressed with their ethics!
Thanks, carlos. They both look really sound.

Vasko - Really thought-provoking post. Pretty much agree with everything you said.
#21 Jan 30th, 2004, 06:23
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#21
Here here, Vasko! You put into words what I couldn't even think clearly to myself.

I wondered what the people would be doing if they weren't begging? Starving? Going to college? I really doubt that anyone chooses to become a begger because it is such an easy life. Like you, I also reject the blanket behaviorist point of view that an act of charity = a reward for the begger = a career in begging.


The act of giving (charity) is not only to benefit someone that has more difficult life than our own---but also a way to say thank you and to appreciate the life that we have. Who knows when we ourselves might be in need of someone else's compassion and charity.

An act of kindness is not only to the person you act kind to...but also an act of kindness to humanity.

I realize that I have an idealized point of view--having not actually any experience with beggars (except when I was in elementary school and lived in Spain). I will probably write in with a completely different attitude once I actually go to India.

I don't want to be surrounded by beggars that may "ruin my glitzy holiday experience" as you put it. But like you said, these people are humans and have the right to their dignity. Who are we to decide who are the "deserving poor" to get our doled out tossed away coins.

I may or may not give.....somone else posted about their frightening experience of giving away their coins to the children. But I will keep your words in mind and try to at least to keep compasionate and not to disdain those who are in far more need of my small change than I am.

Diane
#22 Jan 30th, 2004, 07:31
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#22
I'm with Vasco. Not been to India yet, but lived in Romania for a while, where there are a few - I try to keep in mind the kids are humans too, and since knowing the language tried to speak to them, and sometimes give some food or drink if I felt like it. Never cash. I did often give a little money to old people; I know their lives were tough and f*cked over by the system, and they really need it.
'To see the world in a grain of sand; and heaven in a wild flower; to hold infinity in the palm of your hand; and eternity in an hour'
#23 Jan 30th, 2004, 09:10
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#23
I gave 1-2 Rupees a day to lepers as a symbol of my desire to help. I can't save evryone, and any limit is a limit imposed by ourselves, so the limit I imposed was 2 Rupees. India is a crazy place, and you'll find exceptions. You'll find many many people on a daily basis you think you should give to. The poverty in India is like no other place I've seen, possibly because it is in the midst of such depressing and dirty industrialization. You see qudrapalegics (sp?), lepers, and people whose limbs have been contorted like you've never seen. It's India.

No advice anyone gives you before you go for the first time can fully prepare you for what you'll see. Rember that in all of your research. You'll go knowing exactly what you're going to do, and within one day throw most of it out the window. It's good to know what the options are, but you're really going to have to let go of "knowing what to expect" . . . anywhere in India.
#24 Feb 12th, 2004, 21:29
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#24

Some thoughts on giving to beggars

I’ve thought about this issue and read through the posts again and have come up with the following thoughts.

Often you hear people say: “See what the local people do and do as they do”. This is based on the age-old “When in Rome, do as in Rome” –line of thought. I agree it’s a good idea to be observative and to try to learn things from people who know more than you about manners, local customs and so forth. Just to save you from acting like a fool or offending people because of your ignorance.

This doesn’t mean that local people are necessarily right when it comes to treating other people in a moral sense. For certain you don’t accept everything that people do in your own locality. I suspect that in some areas of India caste-thinking is still alive and kicking. If one was to adhere to the guideline above, one would have to respect the caste-related customs and, in a sense, play along. How people are treated is no doubt culturally influenced and to a certain extent - determined. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t try to live according to morals that concern humanity on a universal level. My point is that you have to figure it out for yourself how to deal with beggars, imitating local customs isn’t necessarily the best way to go about it.

The question arises: what is a beggar? To be more precise, who qualifies as being a beggar? In the posts so far people have mentioned kids, sick people, old people, scam-artists, etc. What a mixed group of people! When I think of beggars, I think of people who are practically forced to beg to stay alive. I think of people who don’t realistically stand a chance of actually finding work or being able to work – people who have fallen to the boundaries of society and beyond. These definitions leave out a lot of people mentioned in the posts above; at the same time, I’m sure they include a massive amount of people who beg in India every day. Real beggars.

So how are you going to distinguish these real beggars in everyday situations? You can’t be sure, that’s for sure. Use your common sense. And if and when you decide to give, don’t ruminate about it – just do it. Like many people have noted above, you’ll be able to try it every which way once you’re in the actual situations. Taking a categorical stance of either “give” or “no give” is useless.

Oh, and finally. Sometimes people think that giving is somehow polluted because it makes the giver feel good. That it just eases one’s guilty conscience and is therefore a selfish act. What kind of madness is that? Altruism and charity wouldn’t work if giving made you feel miserable. It’s supposed to make you feel good, it encourages you to do so in the future, too.
#25 Feb 12th, 2004, 22:05
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#25
My suggestion is simple.

If you can do anything good to a beggar (how bad weak disabled or whatever imaginable) is to not to give any thing. I mean not even a single penny.

This is the best and the only service you can do as an ordinary tourist to curb this menace.

Leave the rest to the local agencies responsible for it. According to them their biggest challenge is not the beggars but the factors encouraging it. The ‘help’ and ‘goodwill’ are doing the opposite of your intention.
#26 Feb 12th, 2004, 22:32
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#26
I imagine one must be really desperate to become a beggar. it is not an easy decision to make, losing your dignity and self-respect.
#27 Feb 13th, 2004, 14:29
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Quote:
Originally posted by beach
If you can do anything good to a beggar (how bad weak disabled or whatever imaginable) is to not to give any thing. I mean not even a single penny.

This is the best and the only service you can do as an ordinary tourist to curb this menace.

Leave the rest to the local agencies responsible for it. According to them their biggest challenge is not the beggars but the factors encouraging it. The ‘help’ and ‘goodwill’ are doing the opposite of your intention.
I would be most interested in hearing the reasons and arguments behind this suggestion. You mention factors that encourage begging - I have a hard time believing that giving a few rupees or something to eat now and then is a massive or even significant factor in upholding the begging institution. Likewise, I find it hard to believe that most or many beggars have made a "career" of begging, that they've been encouraged and rewarded to the point that they figure it's lucrative - a good, easy way of living one's life.

Yes, I agree that it would be important to tackle the issues that generate begging. Those issues are infinitely larger and more complex than random charity - they are societal. If the beggar hasn't been dealt a fair hand by society (or life, for that matter), it's useless to punish the individual beggar even further by withholding any and all acts of charity. It's more effective to act face-to-face with individual people than hiding behind rhetoric that aims at changing "the system".

I'm sure charitable agencies, etc. play a significant role in alleviating the distress of beggars and so forth. I don't believe that's the only way to go - that other acts of charity somehow cancel out the work done by them.

Am I mistaken or is there a strange dehumanization of beggars in some of the posts in this thread, calling "them" a menace, not letting "them" touch you, and so on. When you come across someone who is hungry, you come across another human in a miserable position, here and now. I think it's pretty simple, too.
#28 Feb 13th, 2004, 16:33
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#28
I remember the campaign of a wild life agency. They were trying to protect the wild animals from getting hunted for the hide or whatever. They were encouraging people to not to buy the animal products. When the buying stop, killing too.

No sensible local people give charity to the beggar directly. That is the reason why the residential areas are beggar free in contrast to the touristy places. There are many govt. and NGO agencies working hard on this issue. Throwing a coin at a beggar is akin to creating ten.

World over agencies trying to tackle the prostitution problem also faces the same kind of problem. Their biggest problem is not the prostitutes but the customers. They can rehabilitate a prostitute easily, but the pull from the ‘customers’ is many folds strong.

Sympathy or symbolic gestures are of no use. The agency I mentioned first is not calling for sympathy to the animals. What is the use if I show sympathy and still go and buy a leather coat?

If you feel an obligation throw the same coin at an NGO.
If you are passionate just save ONE beggar.
#29 Feb 13th, 2004, 17:33
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#29
Since when have beggars been comparable to wild animals and prostitutes???

This is a completely different issue.

Look, I'm not saying that working through agencies is not a good idea. I'm only questioning the assertion that giving to individual beggars somehow creates, encourages and upholds the begging institution. C'mon, there's begging in places other than tourist-traps, too. The tourists aren't creating squat.

The claim that giving breeds begging is an interesting one, though. I'm ready to accept it if someone can convince me that this is actually the case.

If tomorrow every single person on the planet decided never to give anything to beggars, would that make begging as a phenomenon disappear? No. Sure, it would kill off a lot of people, but as long as the conditions are what they are, a new generation of beggars would soon take their place. And so on.

I'm not claiming that giving will make begging disappear, either. It may alleviate somebody's acute distress, though.

I think we are approaching the issue from two different directions. On one hand, you can look at it from a more societal perspective, which threatens to overlook individual suffering. On the other hand, you can look at it from an individual perspective, which in turn threatens to overlook the big issues causing the suffering. I like to think about the former, but tend to act according to the latter.
#30 Feb 13th, 2004, 18:14
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#30
I have to come down on the side of Beach, especially where children are concerned. Any young child who is a persistant begger is there for one reason alone....to pass on any money they get to an adult (either parent or pimp!). Vasko, sadly, thinks all adults share his undoubted humanity and compassion, but even sadder is the fact that too many are only too willing to keep their children out of school and on the streets begging if the rewards are high enough! (Which is the point Beach was making re. animals and prostitution!)
Remember, so many charities and NGOs are desperately in need of any spare cash you have, and will put it to good use in educating, feeding and clothing the gunuinely destitute kids. That is the only way to make a really effective, long-term improvement in their lives.
With adults, I don't have any problem giving to those who obviously can't make it in the real world either through physical or mental disability.
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