Hubs for begging, temples are refuge for the desperate

People are more likely to part with their money at religious places

Beggars outside the City's major temples,  Hanuman and Kalkaji mandirs, have trained themselves to dodge the cops. But the newcomers still get caught.

“I came to Delhi a few months back and was picked up by police outside Hanuman temple. I kept  following, and asking for food from a couple. A police constable noticed  the couple getting irritated, and I got caught. But I was extremely hungry,” said 21-year-old Suresh who was let off after a warning.

But now Suresh has become smart enough to avoid  police.

“I have bought few photo frames of different gods and keep them along with things like incence sticks, little mustard oil. So devotees give money or food out of their own belief,” he added.

Another veteran is Bachunath, who is fondly called  Bhootnath Baba by shopkeepers and other beggars. The 65-year-old man claims to have working for a  living for many years and has done his graduation.

“I ran away from my village in Bihar when I was just a boy. I thought I would become rich in the city. When I came to Delhi, I roamed around the station in search of food. There I met a lady there who refused to give me alms and instead asked me if I was willing to work.  I said yes,” said Bachunath.

He left for Ludhiana with the woman and worked at  her home.

“I did all sorts of work, from washing clothes to cleaning and dusting, to buying things from the market. She had promised me Rs 500 but I got only Rs 50, so I ran away,” said Nath, who later became a rickshaw puller in Ludhiana.

“I used to take girl students to college. They always used to tell me to take the money from them when I go to pick them up later. Like this, they kept delaying my daily fare,” he added.

His memory is blank after his stint in Ludhiana. “Somebody brought me to Delhi,” he said.
The beggars in the area say around 200 to 300 of them  come to Hanuman temple on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

“We get food and money on these two days. Many beggars, after keeping enough food for their families to survive till the next week, sell off items like bananas and biscuits,” Bachunath said.

These beggars come from far off places, outskirts of the city. Like Burari, Najafgarh and Inderlok. “Where else would they get good amount of  food and money. This temple witnesses a huge crowd which  doesn’t mind giving extra money.

The beggars who come from far off villages don't get so much money or food in the temples in their areas,” said Lalita, a 70- year-old woman who stays on the pavement near the temple.

According to a shopkeeper who sells flowers, the young beggars also work as daily wage labourers on some days.

At Kalkaji temple, the rush begins in the evening. Nandu, a 26-year-old man, who has been begging outside the temple for the last five years, was arrested once and sent to Sewa Kutir when he started begging.

“I don’t remember much, at least not the initial months spent in Sewa Kutir as I was a drug addict then. For a year I stayed inside. It was difficult to overcome my drug addiction with not much help at hand, ” he said.

“I remember that the dormitories of beggars with tuberculosis and non-TB beggars were very close to each other. As a result some healthy beggars also caught the infection,” he said.

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