Sharad Patel, a farmer's son, from Mirzaganj, Uttar Pradesh at the age of 16, noticed the pathetic conditions of beggars near the railway stations, outside hotels and hospitals. He observed that many of them were even drug addicts. This bothered him a lot. So, he came up with a plan of making them self-reliant and helping them to live a dignified life.
During his graduation days, he used to board bus from Charbagh bus stop of Lucknow. There was a Hanuman temple on the roadside where he would regularly see beggars sitting on the divider one next to another. For him, it was a completely different sight as compared to his own village where seeing somebody beg was a rare sight. Soon after graduating, he decided to study in detail about this issue by enrolling himself into a Masters in social work course. His family was shocked hearing about his decision, however, realizing that he was determined to work for the needy, his elder brother supported him to pursue his passion.Once in Lucknow, when he was pursuing his post-graduation, a beggar asked him for money. He thought only money is not going to be a real help, so he bought kachoris (snacks) to feed the beggar. This gave him immense pleasure as he was able to bring a smile to someone’s face.
This incident gave him an idea of feeding the beggars for free, however, he soon realised, this would not really make them independent . “I thought that feeding beggars in a long run isn’t going to be an easy task for an individual. I had to find a permanent solution to solve this crisis. I thought that there is a need to make them skilled which would subsequently help them getting employment.”
In Lucknow, he carried out a socio-economic study on beggars and found that around 3,500 beggars live on the footpath. “Unfortunately, these beggars had no skills to grab any job. There were few educated beggars too who were unable to secure a job due to their ill-health.
A Begining Of Sharad’s Movement
When Sharad started his work, his friends and relatives warned him that it was an impossible task and that he would not be able to finish what he has begun. “The day arrived, it was October 2, 2014, when I launched a campaign called Bhikshavratti Mukti Abhiyan, i.e. ‘Begging-Free Movement’ to make these people self-independent ,” he stated.
Later, he started building trust and comfort among the beggars and asked them to co-operate because it was meant for them only.
He helped these poor people with ration cards that helped them in buying subsidised goods from Government shops. For this, he had to fight very hard as he had to convince the authorities to provide ration cards to over 100 beggars without address proof, which is usually mandatory. This was his first step to develop a sense of faith in the beggars, and the community started approaching Sharad for their cards. After Sharad’s commendable efforts, beggars were now ready to bring a new change in their lives, but this mission was not possible without proper funds. So, he registered for an NGO ‘Badlaav’ in 2015. Majority of them are migrants who come from different parts of UP. Younger ones come to seek job opportunities while the elder ones come after facing the wrath of crop failure. “We found that most of the beggars apart from drug addiction also suffer from diseases like Tuberculosis, cancer, and asthma. We have till now treated more than 325 people yet sadly lost 11 people.” Due to his constant support, 142 beggars have left begging and started working in different areas. He is also taking support from the beggars who are now self-dependent, to help the other beggars. They spread awareness through street plays.
Inspite of leaving begging and starting to work to earn a livelyhood of dignity, all the beggars still sleep on the footpath. The conditions where they live are unhiegenic and deteriorating for their health. They are prone to return to the use of drugs. Sharad now needs funds to build a shelter home called the 'Happy home' where he can provide a better life and opporunity for these beggars to transform themselves. Many times, their earnings get stolen in the night when they sleep on the roads. The 'Happy Home' will be a safe haven for these beggars who want to lead a better life and earn with dignity. Sharad also needs funds to provide a livel;yhood to
200 more beggars who are waiting to give up begging and start working as responsible citizens. Your help will enable these beggars to give up begging and lead a dignified life.