If you ever happen to be in the vicinity of Delhi's Jamia Milia Islamia during the month of Ramzaan, just a little towards Jamia Nagar, you would find that a wasteland, known locally as 'Tikona Park' is suddenly in 'utility' again.
The colony belongs to a group of migrant families. But it's not always occupied. The migrant families come and settle here just for the month of Ramzaan and beg for alms.
These families come from various areas of UP, Bihar and Faizabad. And they have been begging for the past 20- 25 years. "Our parents used to come here to beg, and as we grew up we also followed suit," says Zubair, a migrant resident in the settlement.
"Even orphans, whose parents used to come with us, stay here and beg," adds another migrant.
One of the main reasons for these people to make a beeline for Delhi during Ramzaan is the anonymity the city provides. "We don't know anyone here. Nor does anyone recognise us. That is why we are able to earn here by begging every year," says Raj Kumar, a migrant from Chapra.
These people live in makeshift tents and survive on the food they are able to afford from what they earn in a day. "We get food from nearby. But we have to go further in the locality to get water from the tube well," says Ajay, another migrant.
They have an ongoing struggle with the local authority that never seems to end. "We have to assure them that we are here only for this month and then we'll leave. Even though we have been coming here for so long, we still have to face hostilities," adds Seher.
On an average, they earn around Rs 50-100 in a day and around Rs 2,000 to 3,000 during the month of Ramzaan. "If we have a good run, we can even earn upto Rs 5,000 to 6000," says Sakeena, a migrant and a mother of 4 children.
The migrants of this settlement are mostly labourers. Back home they are employed in farms as seasonal labourers.
"Back home in our village in Bihar, fields get flooded during monsoon. That dries up our source of sustenance. And because we are illiterate, no one is willing to give us a job", says Rukhsana.
"We come here in Ramzaan and beg. Whatever we earn here, compensates for what we lose back home," adds Sakeena.
Mostly, women and children are more successful at receiving alms. This could perhaps be because of their outward vulnerability. "Men appear healthier in physique. That's why they find it considerably difficult to get alms," says Hafeez.
Those who are unable to collect alms try their luck taking up petty jobs such as polishing shoes on sidewalks or as loaders lifting heavy loads.
Though some have tried to break away from begging, they blame authorities' apathy for their plight. "We try to look for a proper job in Delhi. But we are turned away because we don't have the required documents to prove our identity. So we are compelled to beg," says Raj Kumar.
Another migrant, Dharam, has been begging since the age of 5. "Some people have tried to educate us and help us, but until we get formal education, how do we get educated?" he asks.
Locals of Jamia Nagar have their own set of complaints. Mohammed Yusuf, a resident of Jamia Nagar comments, "The only reason they are here is because of Zakaat or charity and because this is a Muslim neighbourhood. They know they'll earn easy money here during this period. In the evening, many of them spend their day's earnings on liquor and drugs and get into a scuffle at night. "
The scuffles often lead them to frequent clashes with the local authorities. Often they are picked by the police on charges of petty crimes. "Two of my younger siblings were arrested on random charges and they demanded 5,000 rupees for their bail. How can we pay this kind of money when our earnings are barely sufficient for our basic needs?" asks Jay Kumar from Uttar Pradesh.
For some, begging in Jamia Nagar, has become their annual sojourn. Yet despite begging for so long, some women migrants still hope for a better life for their children. "There is no dignity in what we do. We hang around local masjids and roam in neighbourhood gullies to earn money. We do not want our children to get into this. We want them to get educated and lead a different life," says Sakina.
Though they come here in hope of earning more to improve the future of their children, it seems ironical that they are themselves leading them into beggary.