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Alms-seekers earn 3 times more in Ramadan

  • Published at 07:26 pm June 24th, 2017
  • Last updated at 08:22 am June 25th, 2017
Alms-seekers earn 3 times more in Ramadan
In Ramadan, the numbers of alms-seekers seem to increase. Whether you are exiting a mosque, a market or are simply stuck in traffic, you are bound to be hounded by multitudes of beggars, appealing to your better nature and expounding on the “spirit of giving” that graces this holy month. Dhaka, which has a population of 1.2 crore people, is home to about 1 lakh alms-seekers most months. During Ramadan, however, this number nearly doubles as people migrate to the city from various parts of the country and take to begging on the streets: A great way to make some easy money in the lead up to Eid-ul-Fitr. These seasonal alms-seekers are mostly from char areas and some also come in from nearby districts including Kishoreganj, Narayanganj, Jamalpur, and Mymenshingh. The newcomers set up shop in front of mosques, markets, major intersections, bus, train and launch terminals, and any other places where crowds abound. Fifty six-year-old Shafik Fakir moved to Dhaka from Kishoreganj, having decided that begging was the way to go. After almost 40 years in the profession, he has established himself as a regular. Speaking with this Dhaka Tribune correspondent in front of the Paribagh mosque, Shafik explained: “My father brought me in this profession when I was only 16. Later I moved to Dhaka, but continued begging because it is easy money. My wife too has joined my profession. Our income is higher in Ramadan and Eid is quite the cash bonanza.” Unable to find gainful employment in the village, Shafik’s younger brother Rafik brought his two children to Dhaka this June and all three have joined Shafik and his wife in begging on the streets. When questioned about why he began begging in Dhaka instead of attempting to find other employment, 50-year-old Rafik said: “I have been unable to find work at the village and so I brought my two children to Dhaka with me, hoping for better opportunities. My brother is clearly making a good living this way, so I thought, why not try it? With the amount we have already earned, we will be able to survive for another three months and by that time, it will be Eid-ul-Azha.” He added that during Ramadan, his income is about Tk1200 a day, but during Eid, it crosses Tk2000. Those who are old, female or disabled earn even more than males and children. Women who have babies or small children are considered to have a competitive advantage over the others. Beauty Begum is physically disabled. The 40-year-old lives in a slum near the Tejgaon rail crossing and her monthly costs amount to Tk700. “I spend Tk300 per month on a woman who helps me get to Kawran Bazar from my house every morning and brings me back in the evenings. On regular days, I earn somewhere around Tk400, so this expense is rather steep for me. But during Ramadan, I usually gross over Tk1400 a day,” said Beauty, smiling. She added that her sister and brother-in-law have also moved to Dhaka and are making a good income from begging. According to many of the alms-seekers this correspondent spoke with, they usually choose to gather around in front of mosques because people leaving the premises after prayers tend to pay out decent amounts as Zakat or Fitra. The alms-seekers begin working after the Fazr prayers and only return home after Esha prayers. Their earnings are much higher between 12pm and 3pm on Fridays. Having set up a plan of action with relatives already situated in the city, these seasonal alms-seekers come in fully prepared to face potential harassment from the regulars. However, even the mad rush to head back to village homes for Eid during the last week of Ramadan has the seasonal alms-seekers unfazed. They remain rooted in the city, standing in front of markets, amusement parks and other crowded places, drawn to the opportunity to earn extra on Eid day. The regulars are unhappy In seasons like Ramadan, Dhaka’s regular alms-seekers earns over Tk1000 a day, monthly a Tk30,000 cash, much more than most university graduates can make through their standard jobs. But the inflow of seasonal alms-seekers is also a “pain” they have to withstand. Shariful, a 42-year-old who is a regular, points out: “I know many of the seasonal ones; they are familiar with our friends or families. “But, they cut into our incomes. If they were not here, we would have gotten it all. Our daily incomes would have crossed the Tk2000 mark.” Additional Director of Department of Social Services, Syeda Ferdous Akter, feels that the attitude of Dhaka citizens is to blame for the seasonal influx of alms-seekers. “It is not like they are needy. Most of them have properties back in the villages. The hype that they can earn more by just begging in the cities is what brings them in,” explained Syeda
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