Thanks to A2 student Shelalé Mazari for this piece about the begging industry in Pakistan. It seems that begging has become an organised business with mafia monopolising certain locations for their own beggers or leasing out the area to others on a daily or weekly basis. These locations are usual bus stops, traffic lights, or just crowded areas. For some the opportunity cost is earning only $6 a day as a labourer on a building site which is less than begging per day in most cases. Economists say they have no data on numbers, age or average income.
“There are gangs which are operating in different cities and they use orphans and run away children to beg in crowded places,” economic analyst Kaiser Bengali. But he said most beggars were in genuine need — the products of unemployment and Pakistan’s lack of a social security system. “You can see very old people, who can barely walk or see, begging on the roads of Karachi and other cities, because they have no family or old homes to take care of them,” he added. The United Nations states that around 49 per cent of the estimated 180 million population of Pakistan live in poverty.
According to social worker and writer Farouque Jafferany, the area of Thatta has the highest number of beggars as compared to other districts of Sindh. “Thousands of beggars live in Thatta, and during the month of Ramazan, some even move to Karachi and Hyderabad,” he said, adding that migration from the coastal belt has also increased the burden on small cities such as Sajawal.
“There are villages full of beggars in different parts of Thatta. It has become a family profession now. There is extreme poverty in the area and the situation took a turn for the worse after the 2010 floods.”