The most thriving businesses are often those which feed off feelings innate in humans. This explains why beggary has grown into such a profitable industry. You might roll your eyes thinking of little copper coins tinkling in a bowl, but really, it’s possible to amass a fortune banking on human sympathy.

There can’t be a more demeaning and shameful occupation than beggary. Yet some persist in it, willingly and gladly. Beggary strips one of dignity and honor; but as they say, a soaked person isn’t afraid of the rain. Once these are sacrificed at the altar of wealth, the sedated conscience becomes a graveyard for any feelings of remorse and guilt. And beggary starts looking like an easy source of income.

Most of you must have seen a professional beggar at some point in your life. You know, those times when you spot a guy in the wheelchair on your way to work one day and see him standing at the same spot the next? When you put a 500 rupee note in an old grizzled woman’s begging bowl among the pitiful coins and it isn’t there 5 minutes later? And then there’s my favorite kind. Try paying the poor, lost traveler who was “robbed” and see if he quits begging.

There’s nothing more pathetic than a physically fit and healthy person begging. And it’s quite sickening when you look at their eyes and are assured that any proffered money is probably going to end up in the pockets of a drug dealer. They are the amateurs though; not yet seasoned enough to know they aren’t going to arouse much sympathy- and hence earn- this way. One has to pay up just to get rid of them; destroying the purpose since a person is swarmed as soon as he reaches for his wallet.

No doubt, some beggars are actually needy. But the percentage of these is quite small as compared to the professional ones and more often than not, the alms never reach the deserving. For most, it’s a lucrative career and a way to avoid unemployment, not to mention labor.

The whole thing isn’t just about where a couple of bucks go. Professional beggary breeds a multitude of other social ills. In order to expand the network, infants or children are ‘borrowed’ from poor families or kidnapped, mutilated and then placed at strategic locations throughout the area, supervised from a safe distance. They are also addicted to drugs so they look sickly and are unable to stay away for long even if they manage to escape. Burning by acid and cigarettes, chopping off of limbs and scarring by knives is also common; though the real professionals use cosmetics to get the same effects. So, the next time you give any alms to a child because he isn’t wearing any shoes; just remember that the money is going to end up in a very different place. Oh, and try asking the man carrying the baby how they are related and see if his longwinded, sad story isn’t just a series of contradictions.

The absolute worst thing about this ‘trade’ is that the booty is usually shared. Don’t be surprised if the policeman pretends to be oblivious to the beggar pestering people two feet away. Beggars actually pay for the right to beg in a particular area and are also forced to hand over a fixed percentage of the earnings at the end of the day. The more the beggar manages to rake in, the bigger the law enforcer’s share. And then there’s also the fact that handicapped beggars are usually left alone by the law enforcement agencies due to pity; which just adds to the mutilation practices.

Beggars feed off religious principles and compassion like parasites. Keep in mind that with every single penny you pay to any beggar, you contribute to the heinous practice. So, if you are looking for a way to purify your income or are feeling plain guilty for turning away a supposed destitute; don’t fret. Donate to a couple of reputable NGOs and welfare organizations. That’s where the truly needy go for aid.