They are the unconquerable army of beggars — seeking alms all day and night, living in Dhaka

Rich pickings for beggars in Dhaka
By Mizan Rahman/Dhaka

Beggars in Dhaka city

With Eid-al Fitr knocking at the door, it is hard not to stumble into them at every nook and corner of the Bangladesh capital.
They are the unconquerable army of beggars — seeking alms all day and night, living in Dhaka.   

While there are long queues of eager shoppers, beggars are going through a purple patch during Ramadan.  It is not only the regular beggars who are  having the time of their lives, but also about 100,000 more “seasonal beggars” who have migrated to the capital from different parts of Bangladesh to reap whatever profits from the ancient “business.”
And, indeed, they all are making a quick buck!
“For the past couple of days, I have earned about 300-500 taka ($4-$7) every day. Last Friday, I got about 800 taka ($10)”, said Monu, a beggar with a crippled leg, in front of the Eidgah mosque at Dhanmondi.
He said he has been begging for the past 14 years.
“I used to work as a porter at the Tongi rail station. But after I lost my leg in an accident, I beg in the vicinity of Monesswar Rai road in Jhigatola. But, during Ramadan, I roam around from mosque to mosque, especially during the prayer time as it is the ideal time to earn some money,” he added.
Dhaka’s mosques have become favourite haunts for most beggars. Amzad Mia, another beggar, in front of the post office mosque of Jhigatola, said  securing a place in front of mosques is not an easy task. “You have to grease the palm of our ‘sardar’ (headman) for that,” he added.
“We share a percentage of our alms with the ‘sardar’. Otherwise we wouldn’t get a place in front of the mosque during the prayer time,” Amzad said, without revealing the identity of the ‘sardar’.
This correspondent, however, found this ‘sardar’ with the name of  Suruj Ali. “New beggars don’t know the rules around here, they irritate people. I just try to teach them some manners,” he said nonchalantly.
“Especially, during Ramadan, a large number of people try to create problems in front of mosques. We try to maintain discipline, while giving priority to local beggars,” he added.
Rozi, a woman with a child suffering from severe malnutrition, is one of those people the ‘sardar’ was talking about. It seems that she is not doing well amid other beggars.
“I will go back to my village after Eid. As my husband has abandoned me, I am left with no choice but to beg,” she said
As the fiesta of Eid shopping has reached its prime, market places and shopping malls are filled with customers.
Beggars have found a perfect location in front of such market places. Salman Shah, an eight-year-old boy, was found holding a bundle of notes in front of New Market.
“I came with my mother and sister from Tongi. They are doing their rounds at different places. We will meet at night,” he said.
Nur Islam, a one-legged beggar with a long beard, has become a familiar face at the High Court mazar. He is the leader of the local beggar’s association and has been in the “trade” for the past 25 years.
“We have over 500 beggars under this association, 75 of them are physically disabled,” he said.
He told this correspondent that more than 100,000 beggars come to Dhaka from villages during Ramadan. Half of them, he claimed, are brought by “fraud groups” on contract.
“The crippled are in great demand for these fraudsters as they can draw instant sympathy.  Beggars are also trained by the group to commit organised crimes,” he added.
Islam’s claim perhaps explains why more than 1,200 of 1,980 seats of the five beggars’ rehabilitation centres of the capital remain vacant during Ramadan.
“Masudur Rahman, Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), said: “We are keeping an eye on beggars to prevent them from becoming engaged in criminal activities. But we don’t have any plan to evict them as yet.”

তথ্য কণিকা Jahan Hassan জাহান হাসান
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