Bhikharis, or beggars, are a common sight on the streets of India. They beg for survival, often living in extreme poverty and facing social stigma. In this article, we will explore the life of a bhikhari, their history, rise in modern-day India, psychology, social stigma, religious beliefs, poverty cycle, impact of COVID-19, challenges faced by female beggars, efforts by NGOs and government to empower them, and debunk common myths. We will also discuss whether society can help bhikharis break free from begging.
The Life of a Bhikhari: Begging for Survival
Bhikharis are those who beg for food, money, or other necessities to survive. They often live in poverty, and begging is their only source of income. They roam the streets, markets, and temples, asking for alms from strangers. Some beggars are disabled, some are old, and some are young children forced into begging by their families. They face harsh weather conditions, diseases, and sometimes violence from others.
The Origins of Bhikharis: A Brief History
Begging has been a part of Indian society for centuries. In the past, begging was seen as a religious act of piety and compassion, and beggars were respected for their humility and devotion. However, during the British rule, begging became a crime, and beggars were arrested and sent to prisons. After independence, the laws were relaxed, and beggars were allowed to beg freely.
The Rise of Bhikharis in Modern-Day India
Today, India has the highest number of beggars in the world. According to a survey by the National Sample Survey Office, there were around 4 million beggars in India in 2011. The number is likely to have increased since then. The rise of urbanization, poverty, and unemployment has contributed to the increase in beggars.
Understanding the Psychology of a Bhikhari
Begging is not a chosen profession, but a compulsion for most beggars. They beg because they have no other means of survival. The psychological trauma of begging can lead to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Some beggars may develop a sense of entitlement and dependency on others.
The Social Stigma Attached to Being a Bhikhari
Begging is often seen as a shameful act in Indian society. Beggars are looked down upon and treated with contempt. They are seen as a nuisance and a drain on society. Many people refuse to give alms to beggars, even if they can afford to.
The Role of Religion in Bhikhari Culture
Begging is often associated with religious beliefs in India. Many beggars are sadhus, or holy men, who beg for alms as a part of their spiritual practice. They believe that giving alms to beggars is a virtuous act that will bring them blessings.
Bhikharis and Poverty: A Vicious Cycle
Begging is a symptom of poverty. Many beggars come from marginalized communities that lack access to education, healthcare, and basic amenities. They are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and ill-health. Without proper intervention, this cycle is difficult to break.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Bhikharis
The pandemic has hit the poor and marginalized the hardest. With the lockdown and loss of jobs, many people have been pushed into poverty, and the number of beggars has likely increased. The closure of public places and temples has also affected the income of beggars.
The Challenges of Being a Female Bhikhari
Female beggars face unique challenges. They are often subjected to sexual harassment, violence, and exploitation. They may also have to take care of their children while begging, which makes it harder for them to earn a living.
Empowering Bhikharis: NGOs and Government Programs
Several NGOs and government programs are working to empower beggars and help them break free from begging. These programs provide vocational training, healthcare, and education to beggars, enabling them to earn a livelihood and live with dignity.
Debunking Common Myths about Bhikharis
There are many myths associated with beggars, such as they are lazy, choose to beg, and are part of an organized begging syndicate. These myths are not true, and beggars deserve compassion and support.
Can Society Help Bhikharis Break Free from Begging?
Breaking the cycle of poverty and begging requires a collective effort from society, government, and NGOs. Society can help by treating beggars with dignity and respect, supporting programs that empower them, and creating opportunities for their economic and social inclusion.
Bhikharis are a vulnerable section of society that deserves our attention and support. By understanding their lives, history, and challenges, we can work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable society, where everyone has the opportunity to live with dignity and respect.