This is not Poverty, This is Hypocrisy

By Tensing Rodrigues

When we pulled into CST at six in the morning, the station was full; full of people who had probably arrived earlier or waiting to catch later trains; but many of them had probably spent the whole night at the station, probably many nights. They were still asleep, spread out over the entire concourse of the station. Soon a man came with a mug of water and went on sprinkling it over them, waking them up and driving them away.

CST is otherwise a shiny station now, with neat flooring, sparkling stainless steel benches, 24-hour Food Court, metal detector door frames and a scanner for passengers’ luggage. But why turn it into a dormitory for vagabonds at night ?

A railway platform in India.

It was still dark when Konkan Kanya chugged in; but when I took the onward train two hours later, it was bright. So the scenes I had missed earlier where all there now. Yes, you know what I am referring to. Behind those squatting men were their dwellings. And quite many of them had disk antennas atop. That left me wondering : are we a nation of people who can afford satellite TV but not latrines ?

Fortunately or unfortunately Pushpak was not too full; there was enough space for vendors and beggars to move about from coach to coach. One after another, a number of hijdas came pestering the passengers. I was indeed shocked to see one of them helloing the TC with a warm and familiar greeting; the still shocking part was that the TC reciprocated the greeting. I almost got a feeling that begging is “official” on Indian Railways !

We seem to believe that begging is enshrined in our Constitution – those vagabonds making CST their home for the night, those men defecating along the railway tracks, beggars in trains … we find nothing really wrong with them. Probably we have interpreted the term “socialist” in the “SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC” of the preamble of our constitution as a right to beg.

You may find this very harsh; truth is harsh. I know the poverty in this country is real; I too believe like you that poor deserve our compassion. But, we are not talking of poverty or poor; we are talking of hypocrisy and mediocrity. The men defecating in the open are not all poor; poor cannot afford satellite TV. Hijra’s begging in the trains are not poor by any standard. The vagabonds sleeping in the station may be categorized as poor – but the poor of this country definitely deserve to be woken up in a better way.

The issue therefore is not of poverty; the issue is of a mindset that accepts all this as natural and unavoidable. There are basically three stakeholders in this problem – the people affected (“beggars”), the rest of us and the State. All three are responsible for the problem and can act to solve it; all three need to act together.

Tensing Rodrigues

Author : 

Tensing started his career as a teacher at graduate level in Economics. He has worked as independent advisor for market research projects and new product launches. He has extensive experience in marketing of financial products and writes about financial inclusion.

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