Anantnag, June 11: With the Jammu and Kashmir government claiming to make, Anantnag a prime attraction for tourists, the begging business has picked up in the restive Kashmir region.
The number of beggars is growing with each passing year and the summer capital, Srinagar is turning into “beggar’s paradise.”
Begging for alms has now become a business proposition of huge magnitude. Beggars are everywhere, in your neighborhood, trains, buses, government offices, pavements, roads and they are as ubiquitous as god himself.
Amid rains and cold one could spot beggars dotting the Srinagar streets, shrines, Masjids and at many other places. There are many handicapped nonlocal beggars mostly hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, who camped in Anantnag since years.
On Monday, it turned as the good day for the family of Mohammad Shakir, 39 (name changed) as on Sundays he was dropped along with his associates in the busy area of Lal Chowk for begging.
Shakir a handicapped hails from a city of Meerut Uttar Pradesh, says that he has been in begging since past 5 years in the valley and on every day he earns good money to help his family.
He says his journey to Kashmir was strange as he was promised by a contractor to work here in one of the companies which according to him did not exist when he came here.
“We are 4 family members and all are this time in different locations of Srinagar for begging because we have no other source of income except begging, Shakir says while asking for help to pedestrians.
He says that earned begging amount is twice checked by the contractors which according to him provide them shelter and food.
On Sundays they come twice to us because they think we will hide some money and will cheat them in the evening, Shakir said.
According to Shakir, around 12-13 beggars are living in Shairbagh outskirts Anantnag and all are begging in different parts of the town.
“Some of us are deported on Shrines, Mosques, parks, and children on traffic junctions, he says.
Hashim Abdullah, 39 (name changed) a handicapped is seen begging near the TRC ground, says that he was taken from Varanasi Uttar Pradesh and had joined a beggar mafia here.
According to Abdullah, they live in a group of 5 persons near Bemina side of the city and their head leader is called as “Bhai” who has the share of 70% in their every day’s earning.
After 2 or 3 months we visit our homes and came back to Kashmir because people here are very helpful, he says while reciting the Islamic Kalima.
Another beggar Ali Mohammad, 50 (name changed) from Bihar says the reason behind begging is to marry my two daughters because I have no money to provide a dowry to bridegrooms.
Ali says from last two years he along with his another friend Ismayil Bhai are doing rounds of Srinagar city and thank god we are earning according to our expectations.
“Here people are very helpful and after few months we may leave for our homes and will marry my two daughters, he says.
However, the local beggars were narrating different story of their worries.
Fata 55, (name changed) usually seen begging on the K P Road shrine says the reason behind her begging is her own sons.
Three years after her husband died, her two sons started quarreling with over property issue. Fata decided to live alone and now occasionally is visiting her daughter in a nearby village.
On every Friday she visits, Hazrat Reshi Sahib and after that, she usually starts begging and goes back on Sundays, she says amid emotional tone.
Fata said, she normally gets 300-500 rupees and few Kilograms of rice during these days to feed his stomach.
However, “the struggle will not end here, it will continue till my last breath,” Fata said.
Another local Mushtaq Ahmad 45(Name changed) from Soura area of Srinagar while holding the cigar in her mouth near Traffic Police headquarters on Residency Road says he had studied till 7 class in one of a government school in the area.
Mushtaq says, he usually earns 100-200 in a day and thank God that is enough for my family, saying that the reason behind his begging is depression which doctors diagnosed a few years back.
“I do not want my children to come on streets and they did not know even about this, I tell them I am doing a job in Rangriat area of the city,” he says.
Mushtaq says that everyone has his own story and these small meeting cannot justify their reason for begging.
It is pertinent to mention that “J&K Prevention of Beggary Act, 1960 was enacted in 1960 and rules under the Act were been notified in the year 1965 but till date has not been enforced.
However, a report carried by NDTV in 2015 reads that India has over 4 lakh beggars with West Bengal’s 81,000 being the maximum among the states.