Poonam Talwar Sayal

On Childrens Day I took my daughters out for a treat. The beautiful day was marred by an unexpected confrontation when two adolescent girls came to us begging for money!I have learnt not to encourage beggars and I believe that if everyone stops giving them alms, then they will stop asking and a sad habit will die off. So I refused to give the girls any money, instead I started asking them about their family. They refused to say anything except the pathetic words Kuchh de do, bhukh lagi hai. After a few futile attempts my husband said come with us and we will buy you something to eat, but again they were reluctant, just pressing on for money. I still wanted to take them with me but my husband very sensibly explained that any such step could land us in trouble with the kids family as well as the authorities. Our motive for taking them with us could be virtuous but people might make it sound ulterior and cause trouble. Anyway we had no official authority to do any such thing. Some NGOs might be authorized to take in the children for care-taking but we did not know any such agency. Anything unofficial can cause unnecessary trouble for the individual involved even if their motives are virtuous. So frustrated we moved on, my daughters following us reluctantly. When we sat in the restaurant my younger daughter seemed quite upset that we had left two hungry girls outside, while we were sitting down to a lavish meal. It was difficult making her understand why I had not given them any money.
This is an issue which has troubled most of us and left us feeling guilty and less humane but what can we do? This is a question that has always haunted me. If u try and feed these unfortunates, very few accept food, some very rudely throw the food and demand money instead, while others keep pleading for money…all the while expressing their pitiable plight. Very few are genuinely hungry and needy. For most it has become a profession. They want money only and not our food or concern. But these arguments apart, can we just leave behind a little girl who is telling us she is hungry? Even if she is just acting! Will giving her some money today ease her problems forever? Will she not beg again the next day? So giving her money once is not the answer to this quandary. We need to find an everlasting cure to this disease of begging.
Abroad there are government agencies or Social security Services, which take-in such homeless people and look after them. I think we also have a need for such agencies in our country, which can be held accountable and which can take these young children and other homeless beggars off the streets and offer them a better living environment. The agency needs to be transparent and the security of the inmates should be given priority. Many like me would love to be associated with such a group and help out in any manner but it has to be official.
Incidentally I had just joined the Forward India Forum and this incident made me realize the importance of groups such as ours, who can help find solutions to such problems if the members become a team and ensure that our voice is heard by all, especially the government. So I am hoping we can together address this issue so that all beggars can be provided for and the street children can be given better opportunities.