Begging mafia is flourishing in Pakistan, especially in Karachi, and one can easily find an average of five to six beggars on every thoroughfare in the city. They are found in front of mosques, restaurants, picnic spots, cinema houses, shrines, roads, etc, and with the passage of time, the number is increasing.
For decades, beggary has turned into a lucrative business, not only in Pakistan, but other South Asian countries too, and a few opportunists are pushing more and more poor people towards this “organised crime” by offering them incentives.
It is a fact that beggary stems out from the need to survive, but making it a habit is unacceptable. Unfortunately, most of the beggars are habitual and extorting money by using various tools such as hideous appearance or disabilities.
According to various studies conducted by several institutions and nongovernmental organisations, “begging profession” is being run by mafias, who are also involved in a series of crimes from abduction, street crimes to theft, exploitation and in some cases violence.
Despite being declared illegal by the government, begging is not only flourishing with the connivance of some influential people in the country, but also because of the tendency of the people to pay charity to the poor. This happens only because the state fails to deliver.
Begging is a complex issue because some of the poor, to avoid starvation, choose this as a profession, and in some cases, they find it an easy way to earn money. Many poor families migrated from rural areas to urban cities in search of living and started begging.
The major reasons are increase in the number of problems for the labour, meager wages and inflation, which forced the underprivileged to resort to financial help from others to eke out a living.
Though there are genuine families, who deserve financial assistance, but owing to rise in the number of beggars, one can find it difficult to differentiate between the deserving and professionals.
“Begging would have been the best option, if God had given talents to only a selected few. Fortunately, He gave us all our compatible gifts, respectively, so it is an offence to be a chronic beggar.” (Israelmore Ayivor, an inspirational writer from Ghana)
According to the law of land, a beggar can be jailed for three years, if arrested, but like other laws, this one is also being not implemented.
Unfortunately, mafia is controlling the lives of a large number of beggars and also assigns them areas to beg. These beggars have to face torture and inhuman behaviour of their handlers.
Besides, children, young girls and women also face physical abuse only because they have to feed their poor family members. Poverty is, undoubtedly, the main cause of begging, but making it a profession should never be an option. For resolving the issue, the government and other nongovernmental organisations have to jointly make concerted efforts to provide relief to the needy and discourage begging.
The government should create job opportunities for the poor and also initiate free-of-charge skill training programmes so that such people can improve their living standards and live a respectable life.
There should also be a proper mechanism to implement laws and the police should be empowered to take action against such mafias without any pressure. People should also stop giving charity to such beggars and, if possible, give them work options so that begging can be discouraged.
The first woman Nobel Prize winner, Marie Skłodowska Curie, a Polish and neutralised French physicist and chemist, has once said, “I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy”.