Homelessness and Begging in India

Where-ever I have travelled in the world I have encountered homelessness and begging. From the streets of the UK to the USA, Brazil and India; it is ubiquitous. They all have their stories and reasons – some good; some bad. They are the residue of society; the ones who do not fit in; who have no place. It is as if they have been discarded and thrown aside like the rubbish in the street.

Yet they are people.

My last visit to India had its share of beggars but not as many as I remembered. Perhaps India is on the up? Or perhaps Chennai is not as bad as Delhi? I do not know.

My observations in India seem to suggest it is the old who beg. Perhaps there is no pension to be paid? Or perhaps their families no longer care for them? Or perhaps it is the culture? There is a culture that encourages people to give up worldly pursuits and all possessions and embark upon a spiritual quest. All they have are their robes and a begging bowl. I am not saying that the beggars I saw were on a spiritual quest. Somehow I doubt that. But maybe the culture encourages begging and the giving of alms?

Another interesting observation I have made is that beggars tend to congregate around places of worship. Perhaps they believe that the pious are more generous? Or else that they can prey on guilt?

I saw a number sleeping on the hard concrete. How difficult it must be to bathe and keep clean – particularly in such heat.

36 thoughts on “Homelessness and Begging in India

  1. Don’t know about the begging, but they don’t often bathe and keep clean. Our daughter Stefanie Kavitha is from Bangalore. She went back some years ago. While she finds the culture interesting and somewhat familiar as we made sure she was not divorced from it, she says she will never go back. She found it very depressing. I thought she’d look for her mom and brother, but they lived in a mud hut as they were from the lowest caste system (though her mom had a decent job) and she wouldn’t have known where to start. I find myself wondering if she’ll ever get the urge to take Jesse and the kids there to try to find them.

  2. When the movie Lion came out (true story of an Indian boy adopted by a couple in Tasmania) I read the book and watched the movie. He fell asleep on a train when but a young child and ended up homeless on the streets of Calcutta. As an young adult, after intense internet searches, he actually found his village. It’s an amazing true story. But the whole while I kept thinking that Marc, our oldest, could well have ended up on the streets once too old to be housed in a foundling home. He too found the story deeply moving. It is the first time he has shown any interest or talked about his country of birth and his origins. Marc was 5 months old when he came home to us. He is now 30.

      1. It IS an amazing story. Marc was very moved by it. In fact, he was the one to insist I watch it. I had read the book but never got around to watching the movie.

  3. No movie or book can ever come close to accurately informing anybody of what it’s actually like to be one of the multi-millions of unfortunates in India -an Untouchable or lowly caste specimen. There are millions of dispersed people in India. Millions of transients, migrants and what we used to term as ‘hobos’. No movie or book could ever describe how appalling the stench of filth is emanating from these unwashed bodies of deprivation and the streets. The air seethes with a vomit inducing stench of human excrement in the heat. Once one actually experiences this first hand it’s no wonder why they were advised to have several precautionary injections before arrival.
    Even in Mumbai (formerly better known as Delhi) once one has left the immediacy of their hotel grounds, you really need to watch where you tread as human and animal excrement is everywhere. Not that it matters really as the very same flies that just fed on this have landed on your nose, eyes, ears and mouth.
    Only the wealthy and employed have any semblance of association towards our standards of living, that being having a home to go back to at the end of the day.
    What the vast majority of tourists never see is the full-on activity on the streets in the dead of night.
    Not by any level does India operate a 9 to 5 mentality, this is only for the most fortunate in white collar jobs. The vast majority of homeless sleep during the day in places tucked away off. That’s why you don’t think there are that many.

    It should be noted that it appears to be evident that the hotter the weather is in a country, the less generous it’s social welfare policies seem to be. Which equates in India if you don’t earn, you starve.

  4. Not wishing to be pedantic but the former name of Mumbai was Bombay. Delhi is a different city. Social inequality is the basis of abject poverty. The wealth of the elite is inversely proportionate to the number of the poor. Their exploitation is the foundation on which the wealthy acquire their money. That applies in “cold” countries also like Russia, Moldova and other East European States.

    1. Bede – exactly right. I never thought I’d hear you coming out with that though. That’s almost Corbyn. Inequality and exploitation are the cause of most problems. India exemplified it. The palaces of the Maharajas were insanely lavish while people starved all around.

  5. Don’t for a second think I support Corbyn. I don’t. He’s naïve, incompetent and opportunistic. He would be a disaster as Prime Minister. Ok he has some good points like he followed Labour policy on educating his son in a state school unlike hypocrites he has appointed to the shadow front bench and also he tends an allotment and rides a bike. That’s about it in his favour. I like McDonnell except his IRA allegiance. McDonnell is the only true socialist I have witnessed on the Labour front bench. The others are shams and/or incompetent. Labour would have won the last election if they had chosen Andy Burnham as leader.

    1. I agree that they would have done – except that they still would have been watered down Tories like Blair and Brown. What we need are radical socialist policies that will solve the present problems not paper over them. Austerity is ridiculous and counterproductive, the public services are all in crisis, the economy is lagging, the inequality gap grows. It’s a mess.

  6. Do you mean radical socialist policies like what have been employed in Venezuela and Cuba? Those are countries which Corbyn has held up as beacons of successful socialist policies in action. Recently Corbyn’s shadow foreign minister, Emily Thornberry, was asked by a member of the audience to name a country where Corbyn’s socialist principles had been successful. After some delay Ms. Thornberry answered “Germany”. Germany has been governed by a centre-right party for the past 14 years. This is the same woman who didn’t know the identity of the French foreign minister despite it being her brief to know such persons.

    1. I don’t necessarily want radical policies – just common sense policies that curb the gross inequalities, fund public services properly and produce a far fairer society which works for everyone and not just the top.
      I like what I’ve heard of Emily Thornberry. She seems a good sort of person. I’d give her a bit of time and see how she shapes up. I can’t comment on her gaffs as I didn’t hear them. What I’ve heard from her as all been good.

  7. You contradicted yourself – “what we need are radical socialist….” and “I don’t necessarily want radical policies”. Emily Thornberry is a devious, snobbish, condescending hypocrite as demonstrated by her mocking of a house with a white van parked outside and a St George flag in the window, She sends her kids to fee paying schools whilst sitting on Labour’s front bench so she’s a hypocrite. She professes that she comes from a working class background. That is rubbish. Her mother was a teacher and her father was a visiting professor at Kings College, London. In addition she is the wife of a High Court Judge, hardly a bastion of radical socialist policies. That’s on top of her obvious incompetence with regard to her brief. What she is after is Jezza’s job in my view. Maybe she sticks pins in a Jezza doll during the night!! Can’t see her being a vote catcher. Every time I see & hear her I think of Miss Piggy from the Muppets. Her training and experience as a barrister has given her an articulate and effective public address but that is her one positive attribute in my view.

    1. I’d be happy to see the Tories out and a semblance of sanity and fairness brought in Bede. At the moment the Tories are creating crisis in everything they touch. There is a madness in their right wing.
      I can see that you are not too enamoured with Emily. We’ll see what pans out. I like what I’ve heard but I’ll keep an open mind.

      1. If you recall I said on your blog that the main reason I voted remain was because I could foresee the chaos if we voted leave so the chaos taking place now is no surprise. What makes you think that Labour would have made a better job of the negotiations? I doubt it. Thornberry didn’t even know the identity of the French foreign secretary and became hostile when pushed for an answer by her interviewer, saying condescendingly she wouldn’t take part in a pub quiz. Those criticising the UK’s attempts to negotiate a settlement, overlook the role of the unelected bureaucrats fronting the EU team. They are hell-bent on punishing the UK for daring to choose to leave, encourage others like Hungary, Poland and Italy to leave and create a large shortfall in the EU’s income, leaving Germany to take up the slack. I listened to an address by an elected German politician to the Bundestag and that was the theme of her speech, the attempt to humiliate the UK. Two-thirds of Labour MPs supported a motion of no confidence in Jezza. There are many Labour MPs who want to see Jezza gone. I know he and his backers, Momentum, are doing their utmost to remove anyone who has the “wrong politics” from the party but they won’t succeed. Mark my words, if Labour get in under Jezza it will be a total disaster and his party will ultimately be destroyed by infighting of the like never seen before. Andy Burnham, who appears to making a good fist of it as Manchester’s Mayor, will be persuaded to return to sort out the carnage of Jezza’s denouement.

      2. Well to start Bede they wouldn’t have adopted such a gleeful confrontational approach that riled and put backs up.
        Yes I think the EU is looking to punish and make an example of the UK. They want it to be as hard and problematical as possible. They are not worried about the economic hit; they want to make a statement to the others.
        The Labour is divided on Brexit but I don’t think they are as vehemently divided as the Tories. Those right wing nutters have been pushing for decades. They are mad nationalists. The only reason is more power for themselves.
        I think Labour will be brilliant in power. It’s about time we had a party with real principles. Corbyn will be alright. I don’t believe the media rants. They are all Tory propaganda – even the BBC has been loaded with Tories.

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