In a truly rags to riches story, a beggar from Tamil Nadu has begged his way to become a millionaire, netting over Rs 13 lakhs in a "career" spanning nearly 30 years.
Abdul Ghali, the 70-year-old ailing beggar who usually wore dirty clothes, has Rs 13 lakh worth deposits besides Rs 80,000 in cash.
Hailing from Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, Ghali's riches came to light when some locals in Kozhikode ventured to examine his dirty baggage following some suspicion and later handed him over to police early this week.
Following media reports, his son, a software engineer in Chennai, got in touch with the authorities in Kerala and Ghali was handed over to his relatives yesterday, police said.
Ghali was in the Jamaat mosque in Kuttikatur town near Kozhikode early this week. Taking pity on him, mosque authorities gave him food and place to sleep.
The following day he told the mosque officials that he wanted to visit a mosque in Mudukkal in Ernakulam District. The locals, collected about Rs 10,000 and gave it to him and also arranged for a jeep to go to Ernakulam.
Though Ghali left for Ernakulam, he returned the same day following which he was questioned by locals. On suspicion, they opened his smelly bundle of his belongings and to their shock realised he was a rich beggar.
Ghali was understood to have told police that he had earned the money by begging over 30 years.
In 2004, he was taken into custody by police and sent back to Tamil Nadu with his estranged wife, a nurse in a government hospital, and son but he had come back to Kerala again later.
At that time, he was found to be having deposits of Rs 4.50 lakh, including Rs one lakh in Indira Vikas Patras. In a span of five years, his income trebled, police said.
Police in Kerala claims that one of the major reasons for the growing crime graph in the state is that many beggars from neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and some North Indian states migrate into the cities.
People in the three corporations of Thiruvananhtapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode give alms of over Rs 42 crore a year, according to a study conducted in 2005. About 3,000 beggars, mostly children, are involved in begging in the three cities.
Begging is banned in Kochi, the commercial capital of the state, but beggars could be seen moving frequently around the city, unmindful of catching the wrath of the law makers.