5. While the generous
are severely taxed, the less liberal get off
scot free. They cannot give to all and therefore they will give to
nobody. Some beggars are frauds, therefore they will help none. They
have been taken in once, therefore they do not mean to be taken in
6. Finally the Indian
army of beggars is continually increasing, and
will sooner or later have to be dealt with. Private charity will
soon be unable to cope with its demands, and humanity forbids that
we should leave them to starve.
I return therefore to the question, can we not seize this opportunity, in the common interests of both beggars and be-begged, for dealing vigorously with the difficulty, and for mitigating it, if we cannot at one stroke entirely remove it?
I am very hopeful that this can be done, and that now certain classes of beggars. But in any case I think we may fairly view the problem in a spirit of hopefulness.
Roughly speaking the beggars may be divided into four classes:—
(a) The blind and the infirm.
(b) Those who take them about
and share the proceeds of their
(c) The able bodied out-of-works, and
(d) The religious mendicants.
Passing over the last of these for obvious reasons, I would confine myself to the first three classes. But I must not anticipate. The scheme for their deliverance is fully described in a later portion of this book, and for the present I would only say that they constitute a very important section of India’s submerged tenth and no plan would be perfect that did not take them fully into account.
It is true that this does not form a part of General Booth’s original scheme. But the reason for this is patent. In England vagrancy is forbidden. There is a poor law in operation and there are work-houses provided by the State. In India there is nothing of the kind, save a law for the compulsory emigration of European vagrants, who are deported by Government and not allowed to return. For Natives there is no choice save the grim one between beggary, starvation, and the jail. To obtain the shelter of the last of these they must leave their family, sacrifice their liberty, and commit some offence. Therefore the honest out-of-works are driven by tens of thousands to lives of beggary, which too often pave the way for lives of imposture and crime.
That the problem is capable of being successfully solved, if wisely handled, has been proved by the Bavarian experiment of Count Rumford quoted by General Booth in an appendix to his book. True that in that case the Government lent their authority, their influence and the public purse to the carrying out of the Count’s plan of campaign.
This we do not think that public opinion would permit of in India, even if Government should be willing to undertake so onerous a responsibility. Nor do I believe that there is any necessity for it. The circumstances are a good deal different to those in Bavaria, and will be better met by the proposals which I have elsewhere drawn up.