How demonetisation has 'changed' the lives of Mumbai's beggars

Updated: Nov 25, 2016, 15:21 IST | Aparna Shukla

In the wake of the massive cash crunch, people are relying on every last penny. As a result, beggars in Mumbai who used to earn hundreds say it is now difficult to get even Rs 20

Momna Shah can barely make enough money to feed her family members. Pics/Pradeep DhivarMomna Shah can barely make enough money to feed her family members. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

The last couple of weeks have been no chillar party for the hundreds of beggars out on Mumbai’s streets. What with the ongoing cash crunch, very few people can afford to be sympathetic to them. “Now when we beg for money, people just get angry and yell at us saying they don’t have any change,” said Momna Shah, who has had to cancel her daughter’s wedding since they barely have enough to eat.

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Momna Shah holds up a picture of her kids, one of whom was to get married soon
Momna Shah holds up a picture of her kids, one of whom was to get married soon

Spare change has become a bit of an oxymoron these days, and beggars like Momna are bearing the brunt of it. Sitting outside Bandra station (west), she spoke about how hard her family had been hit by the demonetisation move.

Ajit Shah says there is no point in going out to beg these days
Ajit Shah says there is no point in going out to beg these days

“Earlier, I could make as much as Rs 250-300, but now I can’t even make enough money to buy the basics. Instead, I just go from one shop to another, begging for food. My daughter was supposed to get married next month, but we had to cancel the wedding because there is no money. There isn’t enough to eat, how can I possibly send money home?” said Momna.

Desperate times
Gulshana Shah, who begs near Mahim signal, is struggling to pay for medical treatment of her five kids. “One or the other kid keeps falling sick. Fever, malaria and dengue are very common here. Where do I collect money for the treatment? Even getting R20 has become difficult,” she said. Another beggar, who refused to reveal her name, said, “In such desperate times, when a beggar is close to death, he will resort to burglary and theft to stay alive.”

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Commuters say
Commuters seem to be sympathetic to the beggars’ woes, but can’t afford to do much about it. “The other day, I gave three rupees to a beggar, but he got angry about the amount. People are saying that the demonetisation drive will eradicate black money, but they don’t understand that there is a whole section of society that is dependent on cash, like these beggars, who are in great distress,” said Madhvi Tangella, a filmmaker by profession.

Another commuter, Aquila Khan, said, “I gave money to one of the beggars in the train today. I think we should be a little more giving at this point. We can still survive with what little we have, but there are those who are much worse off.”

Hawkers suffer too
Even hawkers trying to eke an honest living by selling books, snacks and other items at traffic signals, are facing the same problem. “Day before yesterday, a man yelled at me for asking if he wanted to buy some colouring books. Most of the people I approach say that they don’t have change or start yelling at us,” said Govardhan, who was hawking his wares at Bandra Pipeline.


Ajit Shah, Begs at Mahim signal
‘We never had enough even before the cash crunch started. Now it has become worse. I used to go and beg before, but now there is no point, so I stay home and take care of the kids.’

Munna Singh, Handicapped beggar at Mahim signal
I used to make at least Rs 300 a day, half of which I would send to my family in our village. Now I sit near the mosque, hoping someone will have mercy and at least give me some food, if not money

Rs 300
Takings on a good day of begging before demonetisation

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