Fifty-year-old Kishan or ‘Bombaiya’ as he claims he’s known as in Delhi’s Connaught Place, says that the government’s offer of Rs 80 is not enough for daily expenses, which prompted him to go back to the streets from a state -run shelter. “In a single meal, you shell out Rs 10 for a vegetable plate, Rs 5 for rotis, Rs 10 for dal. A cup of tea is not less than Rs 6-7. And a person with family has it much tougher — a meal cooked at home for them wouldn’t be less than Rs 100. As a single person, I can still give up smoking or chewing tobacco to save money… And what about inflation?” he asks.
Kishan, who hails from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, came to Delhi in the 80s when sources of income dried up for him in Mumbai. “I used to work in a meat-cutting factory in Andheri which shut down.” He earned his living in Delhi by selling beaded necklaces. “I could earn about Rs 300 a day from making and selling knick-knacks,” he says.
With the money earned from begging, Kishan keeps his 8-year-old daughter in a hostel in Saket. “She’s doing some course in English; I don’t want her to end up begging.” Kishan had managed to get a hut near Gol Dak Khana sometime in the 90s where he had stayed with his then newly acquired family — a wife and four kids. He also got a job as a chowkidar, for two homes on Mahadev road earning Rs 2,000.
“My two kids died early. One of them was taken by my wife, when she left me for someone else. I only have my daughter now.” Eventually he was thrown out of his home by a rag-picker who forcefully occupied it. Kishan went to a government-run rehn basera in Jama Masjid where he was given two meals a day and a place to sleep — a shelter he still seeks on most nights.
“If I start getting Rs 100-150 a day, I may consider quitting begging, else there’s no way I can support myself,” Kishan says. “I don’t steal. If you ask anyone of the shopkeepers in Janpath, they all know me as the one jo maang ke hee khata hai,” he says.