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(Naveen Kumar is a former college lecturer and founder of Atchayam Trust, an initiative aimed at making India beggar-free)
People should stop giving money to beggars. That’s the only way in which you can stop them from begging. Buy them food and provide them clothes, if you want to help them. But don’t give money.
Many of them spend it on alcohol and drugs. In Erode, during our rehabilitation campaign, this is the message, which we constantly drive home to people. Children should take care of their parents in old age. Most of the time what happens is they kick them out on the street, when they are either too old to look after or become a financial burden to the family.
Many elderly have health issues and suffer from dementia. This becomes a challenge even for rehabilitation, as obtaining the necessary clearance from district authorities for their rehabilitation becomes a challenge.
Our dream is to build a mega rehabilitation centre for beggars in Erode. We have a lot of insights in this field based on our experience over the last nine-years. We want to design the mega village in such a way that people admitted there will eventually be integrated back into society. There will be institutes to train them in gardening, cooking, nursing etc, apart from homes for the mentally ill and infirm.
We already have a team of experts, including doctors, psychologists, and social workers working towards this goal. So far we have been lucky to receive financial help from some generous local donors. But the number of people we find on the streets, every day, outnumber the money we get.
We are currently operating in 18 districts in Tamil Nadu. To take our activities to other states we need a more sustained source of funding. Then only we will be able to realise our vision of making India beggar free.
(In conversation with Sangeeth Sebastian, founder Vvox, a sextech platform. The series is a part of an AKADialog initiative to capture the lives of newsmakers.)