How beggars are made...

Tonight we watched a story unfold: of how doctors take money to amputate perfectly healthy limbs of beggars from the Mafia that runs the show. IBN-CNN must be commended for this expose, “Why beggars don’t scream” , but will it stop here?

Another televised drama? We have been promised that the case will be pursued, the offending doctors will be arrested…ministers have assured that action will be taken.

Let us look beyond that. Will it stop at these three doctors trapped in the sting operation? Is it restricted to Ghaziabad? What about instances of quacks operating?

The existence of a beggar mafia has been fairly common knowledge, and some of us who have done stories know that territories are marked by groups. The police get hafta (bribe), the kingpin gets his cut and usually the beggar gets just food.

I suspect that not much will happen to the doctors.

A few years ago I had followed up a case of neglect that could have led to death. A wrong blood group diagnosis prior to surgery. In a chawl at the far suburb of Ghatkopar in Mumbai resided this lower middle-class family; they put all their papers and trust before me. It was late night when I left them.

Next morning I decided to meet the doctor. I entered the clinic and after a very long wait his wife, also a doctor, told me he was not in town. It was a lie for the fruit vendor outside had in fact given me the exact address and also confirmed his presence.

When I went out, I told him he wasn’t in. “Aisa kaise ho sakta hai? Hum ne khud dehka aatey hue aur unki gaadi bhi yahaan hai.” (How is it possible? I saw him enter and his car is still there.)

It was raining outside. I crossed the street and lay in wait, hoping for something. Nothing. The showers were getting incessant and I was drenched. It must have been the time of a blink of an eye when I saw THE car get out of the gate. I couldn’t move. Where would I? How? It was a helpless situation. I left. An hour later a colleague from a magazine told me that he had got a call from the doctor, he was a nice man, very influential. The message was that I should keep shut.

I did not.

What happened? Did the family get anything out of it? No. Except that they had raised their voice. No action was taken despite their case being put before the medical council.

Slowly, it was almost forgotten…a year or so later I was shocked to read that this doctor had been given some award by his own fraternity.

The media today has a greater reach, more influence. It should use it as a weapon against offenders and act as a shield for those who need protection.

As for me, that scene still haunts me of a car that escaped and the rain that wouldn’t stop. It haunts me that I could do nothing. Absolutely nothing.


  1. Aspects of this are perhaps not new. In my childhood, there would be newspaper stories of beggars recruiting orphan kids for the "job" of begging and damaging their limbs for improved "marketability". Medical ethics hold as little appeal for some doctors as general ethics for the vast population in other walks of life.

    How does one shake up a whole nation?!

  2. BJ: Thanks for stopping by and stopping by and stopping by...and commenting.

    And life goes on...whether one has the last word or the first.

  3. I think I understand. People like to think that they control what they create, but actually we are all creations, too! Sometimes, people can "see" a lot more than what they can only see. Probably extraordinary powers! Take good care!



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