The picture of a bearded man lying on his back on the footpath in the city's Gulistan area with an open carton on his chest, as carried in a Bangla contemporary, gives the unmistakeable impression that he is none other than a beggar. Yet he is not a run-of-the-mill mendicant. Here is one of this lowly profession who boasts a fortune of millions. In other words he is a crorepati or kotipati. On that count, he is perhaps the richest beggar in this country. But you never know; there may be others possessing more asset than this one.
Be that as it may, the fact is for some begging remains highly lucrative -so lucrative and addictive too that like the rich in society, they too cannot resist the temptation of continuation of their profession even though the money and other property amassed would have been enough for them to live a financially very secure life. The beggar on the Gulistan footpath is no exception. But he is not tired of the painful posture he has to maintain in order to draw sympathy of the passers-by.
A Saudi female beggar in Jeddah who also amassed wealth estimated at SR 3.0 million including four buildings in the same district and an additional SDR 1.0 million in jewels and gold coins before her death told she was begging as preparation for hard times. Ironically, at her death there was none to inherit her fortune and she could not spend any of the fortune for her own comfort.
Sure enough, begging for some becomes an overwhelming compulsion. A beggar in Mohammadpur area could not stop begging even though he had three buildings of his own in Dhaka. His sons once confined him in a room under lock and key but as soon as he was released, he returned back to his favourite profession. The lure of begging is simply irresistible to men and women like him.
However much humiliating the profession is, the tricks beggars resort to are all meant to cheat people. Another beggar from the same area pretends to be a dumb, which actually he is not. That his posture is sham can be exposed if one takes pains to be present early in the morning before a grocery shop just opposite to the slum of the Geneva Camp near the Krishi Market kichen market. Every morning he takes currency notes for changes of small denomination to the tune of Tk 1,000 to 1,200. Of course, during festival times, the earning goes up quite a bit.
This is where beggars undermine not only the public but entire society. Charity is grossly abused. Begging is legally unacceptable. But enforcement of legal provisions cannot be attained for a number of practical reasons. Yet pretenders who take advantage of this weakness should be severely dealt with. The government made an announcement on rehabilitation of beggars. Is there a serious effort to take up a programme equal to the task? If not, begging as a deplorable and disgraceful profession will continue to undermine society. How about the begging syndicate which handles an economy of order? The first task would be to dismantle the syndicate.