The Centre’s demonetisation drive to weed out black money has left hundreds of beggars in the city in the lurch.
The beggars, often spotted at traffic signals and temples of the city, said that they were the worst hit in the currency change drive.
Suresh Gupta, a destitute who sat outside a pavement near Hanuman Mandir, Kashmere Gate, for example, had collected just ₹10-20 till 4.30pm on Thursday. Gupta claimed that before the demonetisation drive started, he used to collect at least ₹50 from the worshippers who came to the temple in the same time.
Even on Saturdays and Tuesdays, when hundreds of devotees flock the temple, Gupta said, the beggars weren’t getting much money.
“I used to get anywhere between ₹70 and ₹150 on Saturdays and Tuesdays. But the past one week has been extremely dull. Today, I have just collected ₹15. Thankfully, here we get food once a day at least,” the 65-year-old man said.
Malti, another beggar in the area, said that the sudden dip in her collections had compelled her to send her 16-year-old son diving in the dirty Yamuna to look for coins.
Malti, who lives in a makeshift tent near Loha Pul on the banks of the Yamuna, said: “It is as if we have gone back in time. Around five years ago, people mostly used to give coins and the same is happening now. Since morning I have got just ₹6 and not a single note. How will I provide food to my three children?” she asked.
Ganga (80), a beggar living on the streets near Hanuman Temple, added that initially, she did not realize what demonetisation was. But when people stopped giving her coins and loose change last week, she asked some fellow beggars what the problem was.
“Beggars living in the vicinity told me that ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes had been banned. So people were saving whatever money they had. This was very shocking to know. I knew then that I won’t get any money for some time now,” she said.
Samaa Bai (60) is blind and clueless about ways to get rid of her invalid currency notes. “People are saying that I need to have an identity card to exchange my money at a bank. But I don’t have any id proof. What shall I do?” she wondered.
She added that ever since the currency exchange kicked in, life had become miserable for most of her community.
“Yesterday, my friend pointed at the people queuing up outside banks and explained what they were doing. At that time, I realised why people were not giving us alms. I collected only ₹20 yesterday and ₹15 on Tuesday. How will I survive on this?” asked Kaka who spends his days at Baba Kharak Singh Marg.