Beggars leave behind Jaipur’s streets to pick up vocational skills

Jaipur (IANS) An elegant heritage building here is playing host to 33 beggars these days, who are picking life skills thanks to an innovative Rajasthan government initiative.

The ambitious project started by RSLDC in association with Sopan society is imparting new skills to these beggars who were living on the streets till now.

Says Neeraj K Pawan, Secretary (Labour, Employment, Skill, Entrepreneurship and ESI), Rajasthan Government, “Initially, we’ve organised a 15-day counselling session for these destitutes. After counselling, we shall start a 3-month training programme for them to ensure that the hands which were once used to beg will now be working to earn a dignified livelihood,” he added

“We have already tied with Akshaya Patra, an NGO, for their placement. We are continuing with our first and second batch and shall start our next batch after three months. Due to Covid, we have kept the numbers minimum,” he added.

Initially, with the help of the police commissionerate, the Rajasthan government carried out a survey to know about the educational qualifications and interest of these beggars. “We have made arrangements for their jobs too. Most of these people are aged around 30 and shall be trained as electricians, guards, beauticians and cooks. The Akshay Patra Foundation is ready to give them jobs too. We shall set an example for the world by rehabilitating these beggars and bringing them to mainstream,” said RK Jain, Deputy General Manager, RSLDC.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation is an NGO which strives to eliminate classroom hunger by implementing the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in government schools and government-aided schools.

Meanwhile, the building playing host to the beggars opens into a beautifully curated lawn where they perform yoga in the morning. The steps take you to classrooms where the beggars are now pursuing their education.

Donning clean uniforms, these disciplined students told IANS they were happy to be learning new skills to earn and shall return home once they have a decent job.

Says Tulsiram, an Andhra Pradesh resident, “I came here 12 years back for a mechanical job in Jodhpur. However, I was so fed up with my family tensions that I gave up my job and then was working as a labourer and begging on the streets of Jaipur. Now, am here learning computers and want to stand on my own feet and earn a decent livelihood. Then I shall return to my family.”

Another beggar, Rajendra, says, “I came from Maharashtra to get medical treatment here and have been working as a labourer for the last 16 years. After the police survey, we’ve been taken to this centre and promised that we shall learn something new which will give us new ways to earn. I’ll go back to Nagpur once I stand up on my own feet.”

Says Raghupati Dasa from Akshaya Patra: “We need 50 people as and when the school starts to cook the mid-day meal for students and we have other such jobs too. Our first priority will be to recruit people from these batches. We shall follow a three pronged strategy: to find out who is inclined towards spiritual growth, who wants to follow personal hygiene related to cooking and thirdly, who wants to do a decent job? Eventually, we will recruit people as helpers, cooks, drivers and to work in our gaushala,” he added.

The beggars told IANS that after waking up they do yoga followed by breakfast where they are served poha and paratha. “Then starts our counselling followed by lunch at noon. 1 pm to 2 pm is rest time then we network, play ludo, carrom and chess. Evenings are for badminton in the night, we watch movies together,” said one of the beggars.

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