Dhenkanal: The Goddess of Wealth has left beggars a disappointed lot during the Lakshmi Puja festivities in Dhenkanal this year.
“Please give me some money. I haven’t eaten all day as I still need Rs 20 for a square meal,” said Saam, a 10-year-old beggar going around clinking the coins in his steel bowl. “Last year, I used to earn around Rs 800 each day by begging at the puja pandals here. But this time, the daily earnings have dropped to Rs 300-400,” he rued.
Beggars like Saam come to Dhenkanal from Cuttack, Angul, Talcher, Athgod and even far off places like Mumbai during the 11-day Lakshmi Puja festival here. While some sell balloons, bangles and toys, others take to begging. Their desperation is aggravated by the living expenses they have to bear while camping in the town during the festival.
Suman, a beggar at Ganesh Bazaar with a newborn child in her arms, wailed, “My husband would scold me if I don’t get money. We have to pay Rs 6,000 as rent to the landlord and this time it’s not going great for us.”
The beggars use tactics like exhibiting their disabilities, occupying the middle of the road, carrying their infants with them and singing bhajans to emotionally connect with the people to get money from devotees thronging the town.
But these seem to have failed to cut ice with their ‘benefactors’. Rejecting a beggar’s pleas for alms, Santosh Biswal, a devotee, said, “They are professional beggars who earn around Rs 20,000 per month. If you really want to contribute, buy them food. In fact, during these 11 days, Maa Laxmi graciously showers her blessings on them.”