IRUM KHALIL - Begging, a serious social problem in many developing countries, appears to be the result of poverty and unemployment. It is a complex issue in Pakistan where a large number of beggars, cluttering on roads, make it difficult to judge the deserving.

Especially, child beggars cannot be resisted, though people know where they will use the money. Although the problem is not new in Pakistan, its recent exposure is spine-chilling as it has been showed that the beggars are not independent, but part of a very complex network of criminals - beggar mafia - instead. This mafia use abducted or trafficked children after amputating their limbs.

 The children are used to be given targets for money collection, and get tortured and abused in case of failure in meeting those (the targets). Furthermore, to make sure they could not escape from that crippled life, these children also get drugged by the mafia.

Buses, roads, crossings, markets and shrines are usual workplaces for beggars and people have to haggle with them daily.

The causes of beggary are many such as disabilities, religious sanctions and forced beggary. These ‘professionals’ use all the tricks to solicit money from people (not less than Rs10).

Playing with human emotions, female beggars show people different kinds of prescriptions to plead for money getting medicines and meeting the need of their babies they carry with them. Youngsters, mostly boys, choose new tactics like wiping windscreens at traffic signals. Also, there are some beggars who defraud the public while impersonating as blinds.

Another factor to why begging in Pakistan has developed into a full-fledge profession is they don’t even have to do hard work. So many people have chosen this way of living.

Some NGOs in Lahore have been up for street children to equip them with tools to cope with societal hazards, but many such organisations, particularly those concerned with illiteracy, should also wake up to the issue that has been setting off alarm bells, even if it requires extra effort and enticement.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) affirms that imparting street education is an effective way of protecting children vulnerable to hazards like sexual abuse, kidnapping and fatal diseases. Trying to educate such children in their neighbourhoods could prove more fruitful than many futile NGO. Curing this social ill is need of the hour. Healthy beggars should be put to work. The disabled, crippled and the blind beggars, however, should be looked after at the state expense. They should be kept at some suitable houses outside the City. As a nation aspiring to achieving high living standards, it should take effective measures to curb the raising begging problems plaguing the country.

Begging should be banned in Pakistan. Media must play its part for the cause. The public should be educated and the lawmen should take action over the issue.  Street begging is really a great nuisance. Nowadays, people are not moved by any religious consideration. Islam has also made it haram. It is condemned in Islam as this is a negation of self respect.

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