Coimbatore: ‘Amma’...’Thaaye’ ... ‘Pitcha podunga ma’ ... hearing this has made us cringe many times. Some spare money but many think it should not be encouraged. Youngster Naveen Kumar has reached out, sat with them, understood why and what made them beggars and counselled over 3,000 beggars so far. In an exclusive conversation with DC he shares his journey towards making India a beggar free nation. Hailing from a small town in Musiri division in Tiruchirapalli district, he moved to Komarapalayam near Erode to pursue engineering and his life started to change from there. “I started to see elderly people roaming aimlessly in the streets and I wanted to do something for them. But pointing to the economic condition of my family, people asked me to concentrate on my studies rather than wasting time trying to reform others. This hurt me and the urge to change their lives got stuck inside my head,” he says. He finished his studies like everybody asked him to and got the ‘best outgoing student award’ but also worked simultaneously towards his dream. Along with like-minded friends in the college he formed the ‘Atchayam Trust’.
Apart from cleaning beggars and providing medical care, he has also ensured their rehabilitation. His team has stopped over 350 people from begging by helping them set up small businesses. Initially, facing financial issues and lack of manpower, Naveen Kumar split beggars into various categories. "Some were differently-abled, some were old people thrown out from their homes, some were begging for drugs, some people were a specific group from Andhra Pradesh, some were begging to buy bus tickets to go back to their hometown. I also found beggars who got hit by vehicles on road and not having money to treat themselves, took to drugs to forget the pain. Some beggars even bought fevicol and whiteners from the money they got and took pleasure by smelling them," he says.
From this he says he selected categories that were possible to reform and went ahead with old people thrown out from their houses and enrolled them in an old age home. He also picked people who were on the verge of dying. Their blessings took me to the next level and motivated me, he added. In a journey of 7 years he has reformed 383 beggars till date, moving closer to his ambition every day.
A man who faced all odds, ridiculed and shamed for being seen with beggars is today a recipient of various awards such as the national youth award given by the Union Ministry for Youth Affairs & Sports, Tamil Nadu CM’s state youth award, Vikatan Nambikkai top 10 youngsters award and so on. He concludes by saying, “Rather than giving them money and food, try and give them the love and care they need. After all we all are living in this world depending on somebody’s love and affection. Help them like they are your family.”