Source: Times of India
A 52- year- old man in shabby clothes sells chocolates from a spotless chair and study table in front of the Ayyappan temple in Perambur,Chennai.
Till two months ago, he was begging on this very street for three years. It isn’t a rags-to-riches story, but a tale of a handful of school students who wanted to make lives better.
R Naagar was given the new life of a candy man by a group of Class 11 students of Kaligi Ranganathan Montford Matriculation Higher Secondary School,Chennai. When many looked at beggars with disdain or offered small change, this group of 13 boys and girls did something different. They scout their surroundings for beggars who are willing to work and give them an opportunity. The students pooled in their pocket money and helped Naagar set up this petty shop with Rs 2500. They have identified 30 beggars like Naagar at nearby parks and temples. “We are looking for jobs of sweepers and security personnel for the others,” says M Roshni, a student of the group. “We met the city mayor with the idea. He has offered loans to beggars we identify.”
Not all beggars are entitled to this offer. “We do blood tests on them to check of they are alcoholics or smokers,” says school headmistress Anitha Daniel. Some beggars tried to make use of us, the children said. “Some put conditions to work for a living. We are careful in choosing only those who want to live a decent life,” says A C Hariharan, another student.
It all started when these children saw a young boy and a girl begging in front of their school. They felt bad. They wanted to do something about it. Naagar is happy that he is no longer extending his hand for alms. “I had a vegetable shop at Perambur market. A friend cheated me and took away all my money. I tried my hand at painting walls, but a fall left me with a broken hip. I have no family, so I took to begging,” says Naagur. He gets his food from a temple, bathes there and sleeps on the pavement. At the end of the day, some shopkeepers in the area are kind enough to keep his candies for the night.
The children officially inaugurated their mission for a beggar-less society on Saturday. They will observe the third Saturday of every September as ” anti- begging day.”