Who says beggars can’t be choosers? Ask the street smart people living on alms in Dubai, and they will tell you that begging is the best tax-free profession to earn quick money.
Many moons ago, my Dubai-based friend casually told me how international beggars arrive in the UAE during the season of Eid, and earn hundreds of dirhams. Apparently, most of these beggars would arrive at the main cities with tourist visas, and beg for alms.
In the holy month of Ramzan, Muslims in Dubai would be oozing with generosity, and not really think before parting with a few hundred dirhams. The sheikhs, reeking of riches, would sometimes just take out a waddle of currency, and put it on the begging bowls of the alms-seeker.
Once the Eid was over, the beggars would just vanish into thin air, or to aptly put, travel back to their countries. I thought it was an exaggerated urban ‘story’ until recently, when I came across a news article in the Indiatimes website.
The Dubai Municipality, the article said, caught 59 beggars between January to March 2016, in a bid to stop begging. Majority of the beggars had arrived at UAE legally with a three-month visa. Although begging is illegal in Dubai, the maximum profit “business” lures many people looking for some quick bucks.
With good begging skills, a man could earn 9,000 dirhams per day, equivalent to Rs 1.6 lakh approximately! A beggar would be left with ample money even after paying for his stay at 5 star hotel, flight tickets and the tourist visa fees. And to transfer the millions to his account would just require him Hawala operators who work round the clock.
While some smart blokes fatten up their bank accounts with such dubious ways, many in India lose a limb or two to enter the begging profession. Movies such as Danny Boyle’s Slugdog Millionaire and Madhur Bhandarkar’s Traffic Signal had shown the dark underbelly of the beggar mafia in India.
Half of urbane beggars in India are children. A majority of child beggars are kidnapped by the mafia while they are still infants. Recently, there was a news report that brought out an alarming data from Tamil Nadu.
From January to March this year, 271 children have disappeared from Tamil Nadu. At least two children go missing every day in the state, raising concerns they may be trafficked into prostitution, handed over to criminal gangs or sold for illegal adoption.
Across metropolitan cities in India, the nexus that runs this multi-million business is huge. Right from the police department to some corrupt politicians, so many of the bigwigs are involved that keep the cogs of the mafia oiled.
The homeless are the most vulnerable victims of the mafia. Expert hands snatch away babies from their sleeping mothers, who lie down in the open for a moment of rest. The babies are then passed onto the ‘keepers’, who eventually drug them and pass them be “exhibited” for the maximum impact at the begging sites.
Human rights group have been able to save many children from the clutches of the nexus, but without proper channels, it’s a tough task to take on this organised crime.